Aussie TV, radio and print media issues joint statement on news media bargaining code

Australia’s major television networks have come together with publishers, radio networks and peak industry bodies to call on the Morrison Government to implement a news media bargaining code before the end of the year.

In a joint statement, the organisations said Google and Facebook must start to pay for news media if local news businesses are to survive, especially following a year of floods, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statement was signed by Free TV Australia and Commercial Radio Australia, as well as publishers News Corp Australia and The Guardian, plus Prime Media Group, Southern Cross Austereo, Nine, Seven West Media, Ten, and Win.

“Australians need a strong and vibrant news media sector now, more than ever. Australians also know that trusted local news sources are under threat. Many have closed, forever silencing local voices,” the statement reads.

“The global digital platforms should care about the local media landscape. They should care about ensuring the sustainability of the local news media sector.”

Following comments last week by Nine Entertainment and Seven West Media in their respective AGMs in which global platforms were slated for the “negative impact” they’ve had on Australian businesses, creators and consumers, the statement further criticised the way that Facebook and Google benefit from the current model.

“…the financial ledger in producing the content is currently very one-sided.

“Australians can search for news on Google and share stories with their family and friends on Facebook and Instagram partly because of investment by local news media businesses in quality journalism,” the statement continued.

“Google and Facebook generate significant revenues by collecting data on those users and turning it around in highly targeted advertising.”

It noted too, that Australian media companies simply “can’t avoid using the digital platforms to reach news consumers,” while “no single individual media business is critical to
the platforms” leaving a significant power imbalance.

The final code, therefore, must have “final offer arbitration”, “strong protection against discrimination”, “cover all services” and require digital platforms to exchange relevant information.

The media also took the opportunity to dispel what it says are “myths” about the code.

“Internationally, digital platforms have been slow to agree to the proposition that they should pay a fair value for the news media content they use.

“It is a fact that the Code will not require the platforms to provide any additional user data to news media companies. The Code will not stop them from making changes to their algorithms, or require special treatment for news media businesses.

“We agree that the Code must be fair to all parties and take into account relevant costs and benefits, including any potential “undue burden” on the platforms’ commercial interests.”

The statement follows a recent blog post by Google, which outlined several reasons why it believes the ACCC’s news media bargaining code in its current form is “one-sided” and contains “technically impossible” elements.

View the full joint statement here.


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