Australia hopes to “level the playing field” with a new mandatory code requiring digital platforms to share advertising revenue with local media outlets. Popular platforms such as Google and Facebook will soon have to compensate firms like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which first reported the story on Sunday. “It’s only fair that those that generate content get paid for it,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a statement published by ABC News.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), previously charged with creating a voluntary code to address what ABC called “the bargaining power imbalance between digital giants and traditional media outlets,” was making little progress on good-faith measures. So the federal government stepped in. The compulsory set of rules—a draft of which will be released by the end of July—covers the sharing of data, ranking of content online, and division of generated revenue. According to ABC News, it will be enforced through “penalties and sanctions,” and include a “binding dispute resolution process.”
“Australia needs a strong and sustainable news media ecosystem and the government recognizes the importance of public interest journalism,” Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said, revealing the effect of a global pandemic on the division. “Media companies are facing significant financial pressure and COVID-19 has led to a sharp downturn in advertising revenue across the whole sector. Digital platforms need to do more to improve the transparency of their operations for news media providers as they have a significant impact on the capacity of news media organizations to build and maintain an audience and derive resources from the media content they produce.”
In a statement emailed to PCMag, Facebook expressed frustration over the report: “We’re disappointed by the government’s announcement, especially as we’ve worked hard to meet their agreed deadline. COVID-19 has impacted every business and industry across the country, including publishers,” Will Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia and New Zealand, said. “We’ve invested millions of dollars locally to support Australian publishers through content arrangements, partnerships, and training for the industry and we hope the code will protect the interests of millions of Australians and small businesses that use our services every day.”
Google echoed that sentiment, adding that since February, the firm has “engaged with more than 25 Australian publishers to get their input on a voluntary code and worked to the timetable and process set out by the ACCC.” Having spent “many years” as a collaborative partner to the news industry, Google promised to continue working “constructively” with local media, the ACCC, and the Australian government on its revised process. The move comes less than two weeks after France’s competition authority ordered Google to negotiate payment with publishers and news agencies for the reuse of protected content.