No free ride: Facebook, Google will pay for Aussie news content

Laws forcing global digital giants Google and Facebook to pay for Australian journalism will be introduced to federal parliament this week.

Dec 08, 2020, updated Dec 08, 2020
Laws forcing Google and Facebook to negotiate how much they pay for Australian news content will be introduced into parliament this week. (Photo: AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

Laws forcing Google and Facebook to negotiate how much they pay for Australian news content will be introduced into parliament this week. (Photo: AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

The laws will require them to negotiate with major Australian media organisations on how much they pay for news content on their platforms.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke with the Australian heads of Google and Facebook on Tuesday before announcing the proposed laws.

The finer detail won’t be revealed until the bill is introduced to parliament on Wednesday.

Frydenberg said he hoped it would put digital platforms – now backed by huge digital advertising dollars – on a more even kilter with traditional news outlets.

“The world is watching what happens here in Australia,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Frydenberg confirmed the ABC and SBS will be included in the media bargaining code alongside commercial news organisations.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims initially excluded the broadcasters from the draft code because they were publicly funded.

Revenue received by the ABC under the code will go towards regional journalism.

The government wants commercial deals to be struck outside the code but if that’s not possible a “final offer arbitration model” will take effect.

Mr Frydenberg described it as a two-way value exchange where money can only go from the platforms to news outlets.

But arbitrators would need to take into account the benefit news outlets get for having a bigger audience when their products are on Google or Facebook.

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Instagram and YouTube will be excluded from the laws, with the laws allowing Frydenberg as treasurer to decide which platforms are included.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher stressed the importance of the bargaining code to Australian journalism, saying it’s vital for a democracy to have diverse voices in the media.

The bill will also set standards for digital platforms, including providing news media 14 days warning before algorithms are changed.

The draft laws will go to a parliamentary inquiry before being voted on early in the new year.

The two major digital platforms have been reaping the lion’s share of advertising revenue in recent years, while Australian news media companies have shed staff and cut costs to survive.

The government estimates for every $100 spent on advertising, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook and $19 goes to other media.

Labor has asked the government for a briefing, but is broadly in favour of reining in the market power of the digital platforms.

“It is important journalism is properly recompensed and recognised for the unique characteristics it holds,” Labor communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said.

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