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Media success over tech giants

Australia forces Google and Facebook to share revenue

Google takes news content without payment

Facebook and Google will be forced to share their advertising revenue with Australian media companies in what is being billed as a breakthrough in creating a level playing field for the industry.

A new mandatory code has been drawn up by the country’s regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC was instructed by the federal government to develop the code, which will require the tech giants to pay news media organisations for the use of their content as well as advising them of any changes to search engine algorithms that could influence content rankings.

The rules were originally designed to be voluntary. However, steep declines in advertising revenue during the coronavirus pandemic and limited progress in early negotiations between the news media and the tech platforms has encouraged the Australian government to ask the ACCC to make the code mandatory.

The rules will add penalties and dispute resolution mechanism for negotiations between news outlets and the online platforms.

The code will also contain definitions for what is considered news content under the code, which could potentially extend beyond Facebook and Google’s main sites and to other platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.

Google is netting 47% of online advertising spending excluding classified ads in Australia, and Facebook is claiming 24%.

We announced a new, global investment to support news organisations at a time when advertising revenue is declining

– Will Easton, Facebook

Australia’s treasury minister Josh Frydenberg, said: “What we want to see is a level playing field…for the companies and for the journalistic content that is prepared.

“By creating a mandatory code, we’re seeking to be the first country in the world that successfully requires these social media giants to pay for original news content.”

The Commission said that in July it will release draft rules for the tech giants to pay fair compensation for the journalistic content it takes from news media.

The move comes days after France’s competition authority ordered Google to negotiate with publishers over payment terms for the use of their content in both Google News and search engine results.

Mr Frydenberg said that where other countries, such as Spain, had failed to make Google and Facebook pay his government would not bow to threats.

“We understand the challenge that we face. This is a big mountain to climb,” he said.

“These are big companies that we are dealing with, but there is also so much at stake, so we’re prepared for this fight.”

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Australia’s approach would differ to that taken in Europe by relying on competition law rather than copyright law.

Facebook managing director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton referred to a $100m investment in the news industry announced in March.

“Covid-19 has impacted every business and industry across the country, including publishers, which is why we announced a new, global investment to support news organisations at a time when advertising revenue is declining,” he said.

Google said it had engaged with more than 25 Australian publishers to get their input on a voluntary code.

“We have sought to work constructively with industry, the ACCC and government to develop a code of conduct, and we will continue to do so in the revised process set out by the government today,” a Google statement said.



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