SYDNEY — Australia is set to force Google and Facebook to pay media companies for their news content, under draft legislation released Friday.
The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which was initially set to be voluntary but was made compulsory because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on publishers advertising revenue, was drawn up by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It aims to address the “acute bargaining power imbalances between Australian news businesses and Google and Facebook,” the ACCC said in a statement.
Under the code, eligible news businesses and digital platforms will either collectively or individually take part in a three-month negotiation process, seeking to agree on fair payments. If they cant reach a deal, an independent arbitrator would choose which of the two parties final offers is the most reasonable within 45 business days.
“There is a fundamental bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and the major digital platforms, partly because news businesses have no option but to deal with the platforms, and have had little ability to negotiate over payment for their content or other issues,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said on Friday. “We wanted a model that would address this bargaining power imbalance and result in fair payment for content, which avoided unproductive and drawn-out negotiations, and wouldnt reduce the availability of Australian news on Google and Facebook.”
The draft code will initially only apply to Google and Facebook, though other platforms may be added later if the ACCC determines they have a bargaining power imbalance with Australian news media.
The ACCC can fine the tech giants 133,200 Australian dollars (approximately €81,000) for minor breaches of the code, or if the matter goes to court, the highest between 10 million Australian dollars (approximately €6.06 million), 10 percent of the platforms Australian turnover over the past year, or three times the benefit obtained by the tech giant, per breach.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a press conference that the government plans to introduce the draft code into parliament this year, after a consultation period that ends August 28, adding: “Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake with these changes.”
He added pointedly that “the code prohibits digital platforms from discriminating against Australian news media businesses that are covered by the code.”
The tech companies were cool on the measure. Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said the company is “deeply disappointed and concerned” about the draft. “The governments heavy handed intervention threatens to impede Australias digital economy and impacts the services we can deliver to Australians,” Silva said.
Facebook Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton said in a statement the company is reviewing the code “to understand the impact it will have on the industry, our services and our investment in the news ecosystem in Australia.”
Tug of war
Google has been battling the media industry around the world over payments for content for years. While the company announced last month that it would launch a licensing program later this year to pay publishers, and had already signed deals in Germany, Brazil and Australia, it has previously strongly resisted paying for news. In Spain, the tech giant cut off its Google News service after a debate over the right to payments. In Germany, some publishers — including Axel Springer, POLITICO Europes co-owner — decided to allow the firm to publish their content for free after a drop in traffic after snippets no longer appeared on Google News.
Earlier this year, Frances competition watchdog ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with French publishers and news services over licensing fees after the company declined to strike deals with them.
On Friday, Sims, the ACCC chair, said that if Google decided to turn off its Google News service in Australia as it did in Spain, it would still be bound by the code.
“They can close the Google News service, but provided there is any news at all, domestic or international, shown on any Google service, such as search or YouTube [which Google owns], thRead More – Source