Australia passes law for Google and Facebook to pay for news

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian laws that force Google and Facebook to pay for news are set to go into effect, though the architect of the laws said it will take time for digital giants to reach deals with the media.

On Thursday, Parliament approved final amendments to the so-called Media Bargaining Code agreed between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday.

In exchange for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift the ban on Australians from accessing and sharing news.

Rod Sims, the competition regulator who wrote the code, said he was happy that the amended legislation addressed the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gateways to the internet.

“All the signals are good,” Sims told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“The purpose of the code is to address the market power that Google and Facebook clearly have. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need any particular media company, and that meant that media companies couldn’t make trade deals, ”added the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The rest of the laws had previously been passed in Parliament, so they can now be implemented.

Google has already struck deals with major Australian news companies in recent weeks, including News Corp. and Seven West Media.

Frydenberg said he was pleased to see the progress of Google and more recently Facebook in reaching trade deals with Australian news companies.

But Country Press Australia, which represents 161 regional newspapers across the country, has expressed concern that small publications outside of big cities could be lost.

Sims said he is not surprised that the platforms strike deals with the city’s big companies first.

“I don’t see any reason why anyone should doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said.

“Things take time there. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to talk to everyone. I think this has a long way to go, “he added.

Chris Moos, a professor at the University of Oxford Business School, said the latest amendments amounted to a “small victory” for Zuckerberg.

Moos said the legislation would likely result in small payments for most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could again block Australian news if the negotiations break down.

The legislation was designed to curb the enormous bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. The digital giants could not abuse their positions by making “take it or leave it” paid offers to news outlets for their journalism. Instead, in the event of a confrontation, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning bid.

Frydenberg and Facebook confirmed that the two parties agreed to amendments to the proposed legislation. The changes would give digital platforms a month’s notice before they are formally designated under the code. That would give those involved more time to negotiate agreements before being forced to enter into binding arbitration agreements.

A statement Tuesday from Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of news partnerships, added that the agreement allows the company to choose which publishers it will support, including small and local ones.

Frydenberg said his department will review the code within a year to “make sure it is delivering results that are consistent with the intent of government policy.”


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