Australian’s commercial television sector is asking the federal government to strengthen the news media bargaining code to avoid deals with Google and Facebook once they come up for renewal.
The media bargaining code was created last year in an effort to force Google and Facebook to pay eligible news publishers large and small to display articles in search engines and “newsfeeds.” It was introduced after the competition regulator found that there was an imbalance of bargaining power between media companies and digital platforms.
But after the outcry of the tech giant’s most senior executives and the closure of the news from Facebook’s newsfeed, the government introduced a loophole — the new laws don’t really apply to Google or Meta because they’re not “named.” Being designated under the code means that Google or Meta would be legally required to negotiate with eligible publishers or impose a risk penalty of up to 10 percent of Australian revenue.
Industry groups from FreeTV, Nine Entertainment Company, Seven West Media and Network Ten, as well as regional television networks, said there was evidence Code was successful in driving commercial negotiations with the digital giants. But it is pushing for the creation of a statement of expectations that will explicitly say that the laws will apply to Google and Meta if commercial deals are not maintained or expanded.
Group chief executive Bridget Fair said the framework needed to be continually reviewed to reflect the nature of Australian media businesses.
“While the digital platform has not yet been designated under the code, these valuable commercial arrangements would not be possible without the incentives of the framework,” Fair said. “As the framework matures, it is important that it continues to reflect the evolving nature of Australian media businesses”.
The comments were echoed in a submission by the owner of Nine, Sydney Morning Herald And age, which warned that it had struck commercial deals with the platforms, but worried that the absence of expectations could hurt future deals.
“This concern stems from the ongoing behavior of the platforms in other markets and also in Australia prior to the introduction of the News Media Bargaining Code by the Government,” the submission said.
The federal Treasury Department announced a code review to assess whether it helped maintain public interest journalism after 12 months in operation. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission estimates that the code led to deals between news publishers such as Nine, News Corp and ABC and digital platforms worth more than $200 million.