Cracking the code: Tech giants to pay publishers for using news content

Tech giants will have to pay Australian commercial media for news content by the middle of next year or face fines of up to $10 million.

Jul 31, 2020, updated Jul 31, 2020

Under a new code of conduct, Google and Facebook will likely have to pay millions to Australia’s news outlets.

They’ll have three months to negotiate the payments and then a binding arbitration process will come into play.

The code also requires digital platforms to give news outlets 28 days notice of algorithm changes that would affect the ranking or display of news content and advertising.

They’ll also have to make sure there is a contact person for media companies to get in touch with if they have problems.

The code also bans digital platforms from discriminating against Australian media that come under its coverage.

Public broadcasters ABC and SBS won’t be able to seek payment from the tech giants for their content but they will benefit from the other protections.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will decide which digital platforms are subject to the new rules and the Australian Communications and Media Authority will work out which media companies are eligible.

Frydenberg said the world-leading rules were about giving Australian media a fair go.

“It’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable media landscape,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes.”

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Draft legislation for the code will be available for comment until August 28 and is expected to go to federal parliament shortly afterwards.

Facebook and Google have a stranglehold on the digital advertising market, leaving traditional media companies struggling to stay profitable.

For every $100 of online advertising excluding classifieds, $47 goes to Google, $24 to Facebook and $29 to other players.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the point of the code was to encourage commercial negotiations between news media and the digital platforms that had rapidly become a large part of the Australian economy.

“The business model of the digital platforms is to aggregate content not to produce their own content, and then to attract eyeballs to that content which they can monetise through advertising, and they’ve done that very successfully,” he told reporters in Sydney.

The collapse in advertising revenue and the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic has seen news outlets shut shop or cut services.

News Corp Australia has suggested its content is worth $1 billion, while Nine estimates its content value at $600 million.


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