Code payment impact on journalist roles uncertain says media

Australian media organisations AAP, News Corp, Nine, SBS, ABC and Guardian Australia have put forward respective cases for the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code to the economic legislative senate committee.

When asked how many additional journalists the code would assist in employing across the media outlets, the response was uncertain from all.

Pressed for further details by the committee, Nine said that it would be used to sustain its journalistic business, rather than go to shareholder dividends or operational overheads.

The ABC said additional revenue accrued under the code would be used to provide additional resources to regional journalism. The ABC has 48 regional outlets across the country.

“We are hopeful that the bill would support regional players,” said the ABC’s director strategy Mark Tapley.

The commercial outlets were all in agreement that to date, there had been no “credible” negotiations with the tech platforms, Google and Facebook, with regards to payment for news content.

“The platforms absolutely have engaged with us to discuss commercial agreements, the terms they have put on the table are immaterial to our business,” said Nine’s chief digital and publishing officer Chris Janz.

News Corp’s group executive, corporate affairs, policy and government relations Campbell Reid added: “We have been in negotiations, and are yet to reach agreements.

“Their [Google] experiment shows how well controlled their machine is. Their entire machine is a black box. They know more about our businesses than we know about them ourselves when it comes to being online.”

AAP and ABC said they had not had any negotiations with either as yet. AAP is currently not covered by the code, as it is not a news outlet, something that it wants addressed.

Tapley added: “The code will operate more effectively if the public broadcasters are included rather than excluded.”

Facebook and Google said during their sessions with the committee that they had been in negotiations with Australian media outlets, but that negotiations and investments into respective news services, Google Showcase and Facebook News in Australia, had been put on hold due to the regulatory uncertainty created by the introduction of the code.

Janz responded that in the case of Google’s News Showcase, for it to be a “credible product that solves the public purpose of this legislation is not a credible argument.”

Guardian Australia managing director Dan Stinton said the media outlet had previously had “intense negotiations” with both platforms, but nothing had been resolved, and not for the “want of trying”.

“It is far more than links and snippets,” said Stinton. “Many consumers simply consume their news within these environments without coming to news publishers at all.”

He added that Google also gets a substantial benefit from the use of its advertising technology, “which is effectively the only option if you want to run digital advertising”.

Google Australia’s managing director, Mel Silva said Google was “committed” to launching Showcase in Australia, and that the company had done seven deals with outlets in the market to progress that journey.

The Guardian, ABC and SBS all confirmed to the committee that Google and Facebook were “important” for reaching audiences that don’t come directly to the outlets.

Facebook’s vice president for public policy, Asia Pacific, Simon Milner, said: “We would like to bring Facebook News to Australia, but we can’t countenance that if the law proceeds as it currently stands.”


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