Australia pushes to force Facebook and Google to pay for news | Asia-Pacific News

Australia finalized on Tuesday its intention to have Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay its media outlets for news content, a world first aimed at protecting independent journalism that internet giants have embraced. strongly opposed.

Under the laws to go to parliament this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Big Tech companies must negotiate with local publishers and broadcasters how much they pay for content that appears on their platforms. If they cannot reach an agreement, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide for them.

“This is a huge reform, this is a world first and the world is watching what is happening here in Australia,” Frydenberg told reporters in the capital Canberra.

“Our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world reflect the rules of the physical world… and ultimately will support our media landscape.”

The law amounts to the most rigorous test of the market power of the tech giants in the world and follows three years of investigation and consultation, which ultimately turned into a public brawl in August when U.S. companies warned that it could prevent them from offering their services in Australia.

Facebook Australia chief executive Will Easton said on Tuesday the company would review the legislation and “engage in the next parliamentary process with the aim of achieving a viable framework to support Australia’s news ecosystem.”

A Google representative declined to comment on Tuesday, saying the company has yet to see the final version of the bill.

Hungry newsrooms

Until recently, most countries sat idly by as advertisers redirected spending to the world’s largest social media and search engine website, robbing newsrooms of their main source of revenue and leading to shutdowns. widespread and job losses.

But regulators are starting to test their power to contain the two mega-companies that absorb more than four-fifths of Australia’s online advertising spend between them, according to Frydenberg. This year, a French regulator asked Google to negotiate payment for news content with publishers, and the case remains in court.

How Consumers Access News Sites in Australia [Bloomberg]

“It is both very ambitious and very necessary,” said Denis Muller, honorary member of the Center for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, referring to Australian law.

“Taking their news content without paying for it, in return for a very questionable reward of ‘reach’, appears to be a very unfair and unequal and ultimately democratically damaging arrangement.”

News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller said the law was “a significant step forward in the decade-long campaign to achieve fairness in the relationship between Australian media companies and global media giants. technology”. In May, News Corp stopped printing more than 100 Australian newspapers, citing a decline in advertising.

In changes to the bill announced earlier this year that may benefit tech companies, the final version of the law would not affect news content distributed on Facebook’s Instagram affiliate or Google’s Youtube.

But Frydenberg added to the list of media companies that the tech giants have to negotiate with, saying public broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corp and public specialty broadcaster SBS would be included, along with major private sector media like News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd.

Trace a line

In a blog post in late August, Facebook said the proposal was unfair and would allow publishers to charge whatever price they choose. If the legislation becomes law, the company says it will take the unprecedented step of preventing Australians from sharing information on Facebook and Instagram.

Pushing back to Australia, Facebook is telling other European regulators what to expect if there is a dispute over the platform’s use of information, said Rob Nicholls, associate professor at New South University School of Business. Wales in Sydney. At the very least, Facebook wants to force a change in the law, if not delay its introduction, he said.

“If you draw a line in the sand here, you’ve effectively provided that benchmark for the negotiations,” Nicholls said.

The chairman of Australia’s competition watchdog Rod Sims said in an interview in July that he knew of several overseas counterparts planning to take action similar to Australia’s.

In June, Google announced that it would pay for certain media that will appear in a yet-to-be-released news service in Germany, Australia and Brazil.

Last October, Facebook introduced a separate news section, paying certain publishers whose articles were featured.

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