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This Thursday, the Australian parliament passed a law for Facebook and Google to pay media companies to use their content. With this, Australia becomes the first country where the government can set the amount that the tech giants will pay to the national press and sets a precedent for other nations to follow suit.
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images via engadget
“The code will ensure that media companies receive fair compensation for the content they generate, which will help keep journalism in the public interest ,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement.
Negotiations to push for regulation escalated when Facebook decided to block all news content for Australian users. The ban also blocked many government and non-profit pages, including public health agencies that spread reliable information about COVID-19.
After intense discussions with Mark Zuckerberg , founder and CEO of Facebook , the Australian government agreed to amend the legislation, while the social network promised to unblock the news.
The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code has passed through the Parliament.
We believe the Code will support a diverse and sustainable public interest news sector in Australia. #auspol pic.twitter.com/xam4IeV9xr
– Paul Fletcher (@PaulFletcherMP) February 24, 2021
Thus, Google will pay for the news that appears in its new Google News Showcase tool. Meanwhile, Facebook will pay the media that appear in its Fascebook News section, which it will launch this year in Australia. From now on, the two ‘big techs’ have two months to reach other agreements and avoid binding arbitration.
Both parties took this as a win-win, as the Australian Government offered certain concessions to ‘big tech‘. The authorities promised to take into account the private commercial agreements that Google and Facebook conclude with news companies, before legally intervening.
There are already agreements between the press and technology giants
Google , owned by Alphabet Inc. , said last year that if the law were enacted, it would shut down its search engine in Australia. However, the company relaxed its stance and reached an agreement to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, Australia’s News Corp, for its content.
For his part, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of public affairs , announced that the company will invest “at least” one billion dollars in news content over the next three years. This is in addition to the 600 million dollars invested in media since 2018.
“The Government is pleased to see the progress of Google and, more recently, of Facebook in reaching commercial agreements with Australian news outlets,” said Frydenberg . He added that the new law will be reviewed one year after it comes into force, to assess whether it requires adjustments.
The new law on payment for journalistic content emerged as a result of investigations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). These showed an imbalance in advertising revenue between technology companies and the media in Australia, a fact that is not exclusive to that nation.
Several Australian outlets, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and Australian Broadcasting Corp, have revealed that they are in talks with Facebook.
Countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, France and India are interested in applying similar measures.
The Morrison Government’s world-leading news media bargaining code has just passed the Parliament.
This is a significant milestone.
This legislation will help level the playing field & see Australian news media businesses paid for generating original content. @PaulFletcherMP pic.twitter.com/33bQbiqeMI
– Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) February 24, 2021