Facebook to return news to Australia following amendments to News Code

Facebook is set to reintroduce news coverage for Australian users after discussions with the Australian Government. The Morrison Government is set to introduce further amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, in order to address the concerns that Facebook held.

Facebook restricted news on the platform for Australian users last Thursday, and has since been in negotiations with the government about the News Media Bargaining Code.

Facebook said it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days.

The statement from Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director, William Easton, read: “We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers. After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian Government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals, that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them. As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.

Facebook VP, global news partnerships, Campbell Brown added: “After further discussions with the Australian Government, we have come to an agreement that will allow us to support the publishers we choose to, including small and local publishers. We’re restoring news on Facebook in Australia in the coming days. Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation. It’s always been our intention to support journalism in Australia and around the world, and we’ll continue to invest in news globally and resist efforts by media conglomerates to advance regulatory frameworks that do not take account of the true value exchange between publishers and platforms like Facebook.”

The amendments are set to provide “further clarity” to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated, according to a release from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister Paul Fletcher. These amendments will make it clear that:

“A decision to designate a platform under the code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses; a digital platform will be notified of the government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification; non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.”

The Explanatory Memorandum will confirm that the code only applies to the extent a digital platform is making covered news content available through those services.

These amendments also add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the code – a central feature of the framework that the government is putting in place to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia.


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