Australian News Media Bargaining Code
Can’t see any news on Facebook?
Long story short, the Australian Government in early 2020 reached out to the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) in a bid to create more power for news & media outlets against digital platforms. Specifically targeting Facebook and Google, a draft of the code was made available for public consideration late July 2020. In late 2020, the Bill was introduced to Parliament with media releases from various departments. Bill available here: https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;page=0;query=BillId:r6652%20Recstruct:billhome
Moving forward to 2021, you may have come across Google’s response, where they released a short video explaining the effect of the code on existing Google Search functions. Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHypeuHePEI This media release reached related industries including advertising and marketing, with just over 2 million views, however, overall, public response was mild and failed to create a large public reaction.
The actions of Facebook, on the 18th of February made world headlines, whilst at the same time and little did we know, an agreement was being finalised in the background that would see Google compensate news media outlets in Australia…
With 85% of eligible Australians having an active social media account1, the action undertaken by Facebook to remove news outlets from the platform did not go unnoticed by many, with millions of Australians utilising the platform to access news and media vendors for daily news, the negative actions taken by Facebook became immediately apparent.
Whilst the News Media Bargaining Code had been discussed within relevant industries for nearly 12 months, Facebooks actions had widespread impact as a result of the Governments bid to balance the power of news outlets and digital platform giants.
Further, on the morning of Facebook revoking news outlets from its platform, Google announced they had struck a deal with News Corp and other media outlets such as Seven West Media, Southern Cross Austereo and Nine to financially compensate journalism providers. This will enable Google to feature Australian news outlets through Google’s News Showcase. Google’s News Showcase has existed internationally for some time, with over 400 publishers already contracted with Google over journalism buying.2
Unwillingly caught up in the middle of the Government and Facebook media negotiations were a number of non-news outlets. Facebook claims to have taken a broad definition of the term news as the law is not specific. The result is a large number of social & lifestyle pages as well as Government pages including SA Health, Broadsheet, Glam Adelaide, Pedestrian.TV, Buzzfeed and others have been removed. This has had a devastating effect on lifestyle pages which rely on Facebook amongst others to share content. Facebook has since back peddled and is working to restore Government, Emergency & non-news media pages.
So, what’s next? Will Facebook permanently reinstate news & media outlets or will we see there access revoked again?
Will Facebook create its own version of Google’s News Showcase to display paid journalism?
What will happen if an agreement is not met? Will Facebook become a platform with no credible news sources and transform into entertainment only content?
Will Facebook lose users as a result and in turn advertising revenue decline?
The realty is Facebook has a tough decision to make, pay for journalism and risk setting a precedent for all countries that it operates in or stick to their gun and risk the decline of their platform to provide news and information, which ultimately may cost more than paying to license to use it.
We watch this space with interest.