Independent media publishers go dark for 24 hours in media funding protest

More than 30 independent publishers are not publishing news for 24 hours in response to the outcome of Facebook’s Australian News Fund. 

The campaign, #WaitingOnZuck aims to “let the world know” that small and medium-sized publishers are waiting on Facebook to pay for content on that appears on the platform. Participating outlets include Broadsheet, Concrete Playground, Urban List, City Hub, Star Observer, Australian Jewish News, and Australian Chinese Daily.

Publishers post their #WaitingOnZuck stories

Created by D.O.A (Decade of Action) is intended as a “collective freeze to fight for the future of Australian news media”, as the publishers are wanting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to make commercial deals that are “transparent and fair” in paying for quality independent journalism, also encouraging readers to contact treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Broadsheet founder and publisher, Nick Shelton said that the unintended consequences of how the code has been handled is “that independent publishers face unprecedented competition from publishing colleagues who have struck deals”.

“With millions and millions of dollars now being spent on talent, marketing, technology and audience acquisition, independents are finding it impossible to compete.”

“Facebook and Google can pick the winners and losers in Australian media, which is something the Australian public should be very worried about. The only way for independent media to survive is to designate the platforms.”

Under the News Media Bargaining Code, which was passed over a year ago into law by Frydenberg, digital platforms were legislated to enter into negotiations with local media companies. D.O.A said that the unintended consequence of Facebook only negotiating deals with large media networks is that independent news outlets without agreements are “at a significant competitive disadvantage, and their futures are at real risk”.

Ebony Gaylor, managing partner at D.O.A said: “We are strong believers in the role of journalism, and independent journalism, in protecting a healthy democracy.  Without the right funding structures, independent journalism is under threat. We want Zuckerberg and anyone else profiting off the work journalists do to pay a reasonable price. That’s all.”

Australian publishers recently criticised the outcome of the Facebook Australian News Fund, which saw 54 recipients receiving $5 million worth of funding, with Shelton telling Mumbrella the process had been a “farce”.

Meta told publishers last year that it had stopped negotiating licensing deals, and encouraged publishers to apply to the funding program.

Meta is not under a legal obligation to enter into deals as it, nor any other digital platform, has been designated by the Treasurer under the news media bargaining code (the code). The ACCC estimated that the value of the deals struck thus far with both Meta and Google could potentially amount to over $200 million. If Meta were designated as a digital platform, the code would require it to do commercial deals with the entities that have been registered as news businesses by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA).

This topic was discussed on a recent episode of the Mumbrellacast.


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