Matthew Miller
Jul 31, 2020

Australia details how it will make tech platforms compensate news publishers

A draft code released by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) mandates a negotiation period followed by binding final-offer arbitration if negotiations fail.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

The Australian government has released a draft of a proposed code that would see Google and Facebook brought into negotiations to pay media companies for their use of the news content those media companies generate—with binding final-offer arbitration as a last resort.

In a statement published on its website this morning, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) stated that the code is necessary to address "acute bargaining power imbalances between Australian news businesses and Google and Facebook".

Both platforms have previously come out strongly against the concept. Facebook has argued that the move is discriminatory, while Google has asserted that the value of news to Google is actually very small and that media outlets derive more benefit from the search giant than the other way around. 

The code details a protocol for a three-month period of negotiation followed by binding arbitration if the negotiation process fails to result in an agreement. At that point an independent arbitrator would choose which of the two parties’ final offers is the most reasonable within 45 business days. The draft code initially applies only to Google and Facebook, but other digital platforms "may be added if they attain a bargaining power imbalance with Australian news media businesses in the future", the ACCC said. Media organisations can form groups to collectively bargain with the platforms.

Further consultation will take place during August, ahead of the code being finalised shortly after, according to the ACCC. 

Prior to drafting the code, the government had given the relevant parties a chance to develop a voluntary code, but stepped in in April when it said "insufficient progress" had been made.

The ACCC, which earlier this week also sued Google over data-collection practices, explicitly rejected Google's argument that the value of news content is relatively small. “News content brings significant benefits to the digital platforms, far beyond the limited direct revenue generated from advertising shown against a news item," Rod Sims, ACCC chair, said in the statement. "News media businesses should be paid a fair amount in return for these benefits."  

Sims added that the proposed process is designed to be fair, but also to drive the parties toward resolution. "We believe that our final-offer arbitration proposal provides a compelling incentive for parties to put forward fair and reasonable proposals, given each has just one chance to make an offer, and only one offer can prevail,” he said.

While the process ensures that the cost of producing journalism will be taken into account, the arbitrator is also required to consider whether the media's payment proposals would place an undue financial burden on the digital platforms, Sims added.

Rod Sims

The code also addresses some issues not related to payments for news content, saying that these are "standards that digital platforms must meet in their dealings with news media businesses, and cannot be negotiated away":

Digital platforms would be required to give news media businesses 28 days’ notice of algorithm changes likely to materially affect referral traffic to news, algorithm changes designed to affect ranking of news behind paywalls, and substantial changes to the display and presentation of news, and advertising directly associated with news.

In addition, the platforms must give news media businesses clear information about the data they collect through users’ interactions with news on digital platforms; for example how long users spend on an article, how many articles they consume in a certain time period, and other information about user engagement with news content across digital platform services.

The platforms would also be required to publish proposals for how they would recognise original news content on their services. They would also need to provide news media businesses with flexible user comment moderation tools, including an ability to “turn off” comments on individual stories they post to digital platforms.

The minimum standards would also allow news media businesses to prevent their news content being included on any individual digital platform service.

Breaches of these standards would be subject to potential enforcement action by the ACCC.

Campaign Asia-Pacific has reached out to Google and Facebook for further comment.

PREVIOUSLY, IN DUOPOLY VS AUSTRALIA NEWS


Jul 27, 2020
Australian regulator sues Google over 'misleading' personal data collection
Australia's watchdog alleges that Google did not obtain explicit consent from consumers to begin to combine data sets that plumped its advertising offering—allegations the company "strongly disagrees with".

Jun 26, 2020 
Australia gives tech platforms six months to develop misinformation code
They must develop a framework for how to reduce the spread of misinformation and empower internet users to make more informed decisions.

Jun 16, 2020 
Facebook calls out 'discriminatory' Australian proposed code, says news is 'highly substitutable' 
Both Facebook and Google have come out fighting against proposed legislation in Australia, arguing that news has minimal value to their businesses.

Jun 2, 2020
Google mounts Australia legislation defence, says economic value of news is 'very small' 
Google's Australia head calls out 'inaccurate claims' about the value of news content to the search giant's bottom line.

May 22, 2020
BBC Global News chief: It’s ‘unfair’ and ‘a bit immature’ for news industry to rely on Facebook & Google to save us
But Jim Egan says the big platforms have not been ‘sufficiently concerned’ so Australia’s new rules will be ‘highly significant’.

May 19, 2020
Australia's move to charge tech for news could shift how platforms define ‘good content’
The entire media ecosystem will benefit from this shift in revenue distribution. In the meantime, the industry can do more to protect itself.  

Apr 20, 2020
'There is too much at stake': Australia to force Facebook and Google to share ad dollars with news publishers 
Australia wants to become "the first country in the world to successfully require payment for content" from the duopoly; Facebook "disappointed" by move.

Sep 12, 2019 
Platforms warn Australia about 'unintended consequences' of reform
An industry entity representing Google, Facebook, Twitter and other platforms unsurprisingly argues that Australia should slow its roll when it comes to digital-media regulation.

Aug 14, 2019
Google and Facebook will obey Australia's laws or leave, says ACCC
The chairman of the Australian consumer watchdog says the country will act alone if necessary to regulate the tech giants.

Jul 26, 2019
Australian watchdog calls for serious crackdown on Google and Facebook
The ACCC’s final report recommends better privacy protections, checks on big tech acquisitions and an inquiry into digital advertising.

Feb 28, 2019
Australian watchdog: Give us more opinions on duopoly power
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants more input as it mulls over increasing oversight of the digital ad business.

Dec 10, 2018
Duopoly likely to face stricter scrutiny in Australia
A government review of large digital platforms calls for increased regulation including oversight of mergers, monitoring of advertising and news practices, and enhanced privacy measures.

May 4, 2018
Media companies speak out on duopoly practices in Australian inquiry
As companies submit opinions in Australia's government inquiry, News Corp leads the charge in a fiery brief calling out online platforms for anti-competitive practices.

Dec 5, 2017
Australian watchdog opens Facebook, Google market-power inquiry
The country’s competition and consumer authority is examining digital platforms and their effect on media and advertising.

 

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