News Media Bargaining Code

The News Media Bargaining Code (or News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code)[1] is a law designed to have large technology platforms that operate in Australia pay local news publishers for the news content made available or linked on their platforms. The law's definition of news is broad,[2] including "content that reports, investigates or explains ... current issues or events of public significance for Australians at a local, regional or national level."[3]:3 Originating in April 2020, when the Australian Government asked the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to begin drafting it, it achieved broad support in the Australian Parliament but staunch opposition from Facebook and Google.[4][5] In response, on 18 February 2021, Facebook blocked Australian users from sharing or viewing news content on its platform.[6] The Australian government strongly criticised the move, saying it demonstrated the "immense market power of these digital social giants".[7] A few days later, after the Australian government "introduced last-minute changes to the" bill, Facebook reached "an agreement with the Australian government" and said it would restore news to Australian users in the coming days.[8]

Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Act 2021
Australian Coat of Arms.png
Parliament of Australia
  • A Bill for an Act to amend the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 in relation to digital platforms, and for related purposes
Citation"Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021". Parliament of Australia. 17 February 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
Territorial extentAustralia
Enacted byAustralian House of Representatives
Passed17 February 2021
Enacted25 February 2021 (with amendments from the Senate)
Enacted byAustralian Senate
Passed24 February 2021
Royal assent2 March 2021
Commenced3 March 2021
Legislative history
Bill introduced in the Australian House of RepresentativesTreasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020
Introduced byJosh Frydenberg
First reading9 December 2020
Second reading17 February 2021
Third reading17 February 2021
Bill introduced in the Australian SenateTreasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021
Introduced byZed Seselja
First reading22 February 2021
Second reading23 February 2021
Third reading24 February 2021
Amends
Competition and Consumer Act 2010
Summary
"Establish a mandatory code of conduct that applies to news media businesses and digital platform corporations when bargaining in relation to news content made available by digital platform services."[1]
Status: Current legislation

PurposeEdit

The bill seeks to "address a bargaining power imbalance that exists between digital platforms and Australian news businesses" which the ACCC identified in its Digital Platforms Inquiry report.[9] The Australian government hopes it "will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia".[10]

It would require stakeholders to agree to a dollar value of the news content distributed by the platforms, pay that revenue to registered news publishers, and agree to final offer arbitration in the case of a dispute between a publisher and a platform on the value of the news content.[9] The bill defined making "content available" by "if the content is reproduced on the service, or is otherwise placed on the service, or if a link to the content or an extract of the content is provided on the service."[9] Nine Network estimated this amount to be $432 million.[11] The code would also require digital platforms give 28 days notice to Australian news publishers about algorithm changes that could affect links to their news content.[12]

Proponents of the law argue that the profitability of social media companies is partly attributable to the fact that users can receive news updates even when they do not view the ads on the page of the original publisher.

ReceptionEdit

The code was supported by media companies based outside Australia The Guardian, the Daily Mail,[13] and News Corp. The bill was also supported by the Australian Press Council.[9] The bill also saw support from public broadcasters, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service, following their amended inclusion in the remuneration stages of the code.[14][15] The bill also saw support from Microsoft, which issued a statement suggesting that the code would be made to work with its search engine Bing.[16] This followed a comment from Google Australia which said the company would pull out of the Australian market if the code was enacted.[17]

Smaller journalistic entities including The New Daily, Crikey and the Country Press Association have argued that the code favors dominant media companies at the expense of smaller publishers.[9]

Google criticized the idea as unfeasible, especially the restrictions on when they can change the algorithms for how various sources are ranked.[4] The policy director of the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance called the measure protectionism.[4] Other notable technologists including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee,[18] journalism professor Jeff Jarvis,[19] New York Times technology journalist Kara Swisher[20] and Stratechery writer Ben Thompson[21] have criticized the code for being technically unworkable. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is a prominent activist against News Corp,[22] has argued that the code has been designed to favour the company's properties.[23] Crikey political editor Bernard Keane criticised Australian mainstream media for allegedly "systematically misleading [their] audiences" over the code and the legislation.[24]

HistoryEdit

In December 2017, the Turnbull Government directed the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into "competition in media and advertising services markets", focusing in large part on Google and Facebook. The final report published in July 2019 made several conclusions regarding the state of competition in the news and media landscape:[25]

[We’re seeing] reduced production of particular types of news and journalism, including local government and local court reporting, which are important for the healthy functioning of the democratic process. There is not yet any indication of a business model that can effectively replace the advertiser model, which has historically funded the production of these types of journalism in Australia.

In April 2020, the Morrison Government directed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code “to address bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and media companies”. The draft News Media Bargaining Code was published by the ACCC in July 2020, and interested parties were invited to make submissions regarding the proposed code.[5]

In August 2020, Google users in Australia were directed to an open letter protesting the law, which the ACCC characterized as misleading. The letter stated that Google already complies with existing reimbursement programs that are less broad.[11] While in submission phase in Parliament, Google Australia director Mel Silva said the bill was "untenable" and that the company would discontinue access to its search engine within Australia if the code was enacted without changes.[26]

On 28 August 2020, the ACCC closed the consultation period on the proposal. The code was converted to a bill and sent to Parliament in December 2020.[5]

The bill has not yet passed, but it has caused digital platforms to negotiate payments to local news publishers. As of February 2021, Google has established deals in anticipation of the code's enactment and has negotiated lump sum deals with Seven West Media,[27] Nine Entertainment Co,[28] and News Corp[29] to provide content for the company's new "News Showcase" feature. These deals would mean Google can avoid entering the arbitration stages of the code.[30]

Facebook blocks newsEdit

In August 2020 Facebook stated that the proposed legislation left them "with a choice of either removing news entirely or accepting a system that lets publishers charge us for as much content as they want at a price with no clear limits". Facebook warned that if the "draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram".[31] Following the Senate committee endorsing the legislation without pushing for any amendments, on 17 February 2021 Facebook claimed "the proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content"[32] and blocked all Australian news from being shared by anyone on their platform and blocked all news from being seen or shared by users in Australia.[32][33][34][35] Facebook also blocked pages of some government, community, union, charity, political, and emergency services, which were later reinstated.[36][37] The company said this was a result of the bill having a broad definition of news content.[38] For example, as the main provider of weather forecasts, warnings and observations to the Australian public, the Bureau of Meteorology by definition "reports, investigates or explains ... current issues or events of public significance for Australians at a local, regional or national level",[3] and was one of the services initially affected.

In a Facebook post, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that "Facebook's actions to unfriend Australia, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing."[39] The move by the company saw widespread condemnation by Australian political leaders, and a mixed reaction from Australian residents and experts.[40][41][42][43] The Australian government strongly criticised the move, saying it demonstrated the "immense market power of these digital social giants".[7] The federal government announced it is stopping all its advertising campaigns on Facebook, worth millions of dollars.[44] Days after Facebook's response to the bill and experts predicting that misinformation on Facebook will spread more rapidly,[45] with a spokesperson for one of the country's biggest media companies saying “Facebook will now be a platform for misinformation to rapidly spread without balance”.[46] In late February, technology companies including Facebook and Google released the final version of an industry code to address the spread of misinformation on their services in Australia.[45][47]

On February 22 Facebook said it reached an agreement with the Australian government that would see news returning to Australian users in the coming days.[8]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "ParlInfo - Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021". parlinfo.aph.gov.au. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  2. ^ "Understanding Facebook's News Ban in Australia, and What it Means for the Platform Moving Forward". Google Partner Team. 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021". The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. 2021. Archived from the original on 18 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Barbaschow, Asha (10 December 2020). "Media Bargaining Code enters Parliament despite Google and Facebook's best efforts". ZDNet. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "News media bargaining code". Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 26 July 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  6. ^ Meixner, Sophie (19 February 2021). "Facebook news ban drops reader traffic to news stories by 13 per cent within Australia, Chartbeat data shows". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Facebook blocks Australian users from viewing or sharing news". BBC News. 19 February 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  8. ^ a b Choudhury, Saheli Roy (22 February 2021). "Facebook to restore news pages for Australian users in coming days". CNBC. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020". Parliament of Australia. 21 February 2021. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  10. ^ "News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code". The Treasury. 8 December 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  11. ^ a b Rebeiro, Celina (30 August 2020). "Can Australia Force Google and Facebook to Pay for News?". Wired. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  12. ^ Barbaschow, Asha (16 February 2021). "Media Bargaining Code amendments include a more 'streamlined' algorithm change notice". ZDNet. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  13. ^ Twitter, William Turvill (17 September 2020). "Australian documents reveal how News Corp, Mail and other publishers plan to battle tech giants on global scale". Press Gazette. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  14. ^ "News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code legislation". About the ABC. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  15. ^ Visentin, Lisa (7 December 2020). "ABC, SBS included in news media code as tech giants win concessions". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Microsoft Supports Australian Government Proposal Addressing News Media and Digital Platforms". Microsoft News Centre Australia. 3 February 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  17. ^ Schlosser, Kurt (3 February 2021). "As Google fights with Australia, Microsoft promotes Bing and says it wouldn't threaten to leave country". GeekWire. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  18. ^ "Tech Tent: Facebook v Australia - two sides to the story". BBC News. 19 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  19. ^ Safo, Nova; Conlon, Rose (18 February 2021). "Facebook blocks news in Australia". Marketplace. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  20. ^ Swisher, Kara (18 February 2021). "Opinion | A New-Media Showdown in Australia". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  21. ^ Thompson, Ben (20 August 2020). "Australia's News Media Bargaining Code, Breaking Down the Code, Australia's Fake News". Stratechery by Ben Thompson. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  22. ^ Wilson, Cam (19 February 2021). "Kevin Rudd Says Australia Will Become The US In 10 Years Due To Rupert Murdoch". Gizmodo. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  23. ^ Visentin, Lisa (19 February 2021). "Media bargaining code will entrench Murdoch empire's dominance: Rudd". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  24. ^ Keane, Bernard (5 February 2021). "Media abandons balance in pursuit of Google's billions". Crikey. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  25. ^ Hutchinson, Andrew (19 February 2021). "Understanding Facebook's News Ban in Australia, and What it Means for the Platform Moving Forward". Social Media Today. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  26. ^ Hitch, Georgia; Clarke, Melissa (23 January 2021). "Google says it will pull its search engine from Australia if it is forced to pay news publishers to host their content". ABC News. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  27. ^ "Australia's Seven West Media strikes deal with Google for news". RNZ. 16 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  28. ^ Meade, Amanda (17 February 2021). "Nine agrees to join Google News Showcase in Australia for reported $30m a year". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  29. ^ Rigby, Brittney (17 February 2021). "News Corp joins Google News Showcase, will receive 'significant payments'". Mumbrella. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  30. ^ Meese, James. "Why Google is now funnelling millions into media outlets, as Facebook pulls news for Australia". The Conversation. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  31. ^ Easton, William (31 August 2020). "An Update About Changes to Facebook's Services in Australia". Facebook Australia & New Zealand. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  32. ^ a b Easton, William (17 February 2021). "Changes to Sharing and Viewing News on Facebook in Australia". Facebook Australia & New Zealand. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  33. ^ "Facebook threatens news sharing ban in Australia". BBC News. 1 September 2020. Retrieved 5 September 2020.
  34. ^ McGuirk, Rod (18 February 2021). "Facebook blocks Australians from accessing news on platform". AP News. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  35. ^ McGuirk, Rod (17 February 2021). "In Australia, Google makes publisher deals, Facebook walks". AP News. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  36. ^ Silk, Marty (17 February 2021). "Facebook restores health, emergency pages". 7News. Seven West Media. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  37. ^ Taylor, Josh (18 February 2021). "Facebook's botched Australia news ban hits health departments, charities and its own pages". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  38. ^ Coggan, Maggie (18 February 2021). "Charities swept up in media bargaining fight, as Facebook cracks down on Aussie news". Pro Bono Australia. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  39. ^ Meade, Amanda (18 February 2021). "Prime minister Scott Morrison attacks Facebook for 'arrogant' move to 'unfriend Australia'". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  40. ^ Shead, Sam (19 February 2021). "It will 'annoy a huge group of the population': How Australians have responded to Facebook's news ban". CNBC. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  41. ^ "What experts think of Facebook's news ban". The University of Sydney. 18 February 2021. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  42. ^ Newton, Casey (18 February 2021). "Facebook calls Australia's bluff – But Google gives in. What's next?". Platformer. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  43. ^ Faruqi, Osman (21 February 2021). "Facebook news ban was a predictable move". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  44. ^ Snape, Jack (22 February 2021). "Government escalates feud with Facebook over news ban, pulling its ads in fight over media bargaining rules". ABC News. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  45. ^ a b Purtill, James (22 February 2022). "Facebook, Google, Twitter release industry code to fight spread of disinformation". ABS News. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  46. ^ Baker, Nick (18 February 2021). "Outrage as Facebook blocks access to news content in Australia". NBC News. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  47. ^ "Australia: Big Tech firms unveil anti-disinformation code". Deutsche Welle. 22 February 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2021.

Further readingEdit