Industry responds to ACCC digital platform recommendations

In a move which has been widely applauded by industry figures, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has handed down its final report as a result of the Digital Platforms Inquiry it has been undertaking for 18 months.

The wide-ranging report has resulted in 23 recommendations, targeting mainly Google and Facebook, to help stem the spread of fake news, improve data security, and support journalism.

Large media organisations including Nine, Seven, Ten and News Corp all welcomed the results of the report, which was released to the public on Friday.

Although the report stopped short of some of the recommendations from media organisations, such as breaking up Google in Australia to help curb its monopoly on the market, and a separate watchdog for digital platforms, the response to the findings was primarily a positive one.

Now that the final report has been released, the responsibility is on the federal government to make a decision on what should be done regarding the recommendations. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said this response won’t come until the end of 2019.

Joan Warner, CEO, Commercial Radio Australia:

“We congratulate the ACCC on delivering a landmark report into the significant and complex issues raised by the rapid growth of the digital platforms in Australia.

“We’re pleased the report recognises action is needed to address issues of market power and regulatory imbalances between the digital platforms and Australian media businesses.

“The recommendations are comprehensive and will take time to work through, but overall it’s a positive outcome for consumers and the local media industry.

“Greater transparency into how digital platforms operate in the advertising market will only be good for the wider industry and all Australian businesses making investment decisions on advertising expenditure.

“We support the development of a code of conduct to govern relationships between digital platforms and media businesses.

“The radio industry looks forward to actively engaging in the 12-week consultation process.”

Annabelle Herd, chief operating officer, Ten

“This world-first report recognises that while these companies have changed the world in so many ways, not all of those changes are good.

“It has taken a long time to get to this point and there is still a way to go to implement most of the recommendations. These are complex issues and, no doubt, there will be heavy push back.

“However, it does feel like the glamour of the global digital players has worn off in Canberra and for the first time there seems to be a strong political will to address big issues like inadequate regulation, lack of transparency, and the impact on Australian media companies, consumers and local content producers.”

Hugh Marks, CEO, Nine

“We’d like to congratulate the ACCC and the government for the initiative they’ve taken and for the comprehensive nature of the response.

“The ACCC has successfully identified the steps that need to be taken to bring about change for the benefit of Australian consumers and Australian businesses, in what is a complex area.

“We’re enthused by the strength of the Government’s clear commitment to implement that change – to protect the personal rights of Australians using digital platforms, to ensure the accuracy and reliability of information provided to Australians and to provide a framework that will assist content creators and owners to fairly monetise the results of their work.

“We look forward to being involved constructively with the ACCC and the government as we move through to outcomes. We stress the importance of taking action within the timeframes recommended by the ACCC.”

Michael Miller_M360 2018

Michael Miller, executive chairman, News Corp Australia

“We welcome the strength of the language and the identification of the problems created by the dominance and immense market power of the digital platforms. Equally, we are encouraged by the stated determination of the government to address these problems.

“The recommended regulatory and legislative measures must be powerful enough to correct the adverse effects associated with digital platforms and their impact on Australian consumers and businesses, including news content creators.

“We will work with the government to ensure their commitment is matched by real change.

Tim Worner, CEO, Seven West Media

“We welcome what is a world-leading report.

“We have all been talking about this for a long time. I have to say that now it feels like we’ll be talking about it for a lot longer.

“Everyone agrees that these digital platforms have too much power and must be held to account to make their activities more transparent.

“Now we’d like to see a real focus to correct the regulatory disparity. Actually we’d like more than a focus, we’d like to see some action.

“And we’d also like to see them pay their fair share of tax, like the rest of us do.”

More, from a Seven West Media spokesperson

The ACCC report clearly demonstrates the unprecedented size and power of these digital monopolies and the need for action.

It recognises that the current sector specific regulatory framework has not kept pace with technology and needs to be overhauled, as it does not allow fair competition.

We are particularly pleased with the recognition in the report that Australian content obligations and political advertising restrictions are areas of priority that should be promptly addressed.

In relation to the Codes of Conduct, given the significant power imbalance in the market, it is clear they will need to be robust to have the impact needed, so it is good to hear ACCC Chairman Rod Sims say that they will have real teeth. Whichever body ends up regulating the Codes must have both the necessary expertise and resourcing to enforce them properly.

The ACCC Report rightly calls out that the pace of technological change needs to be matched by the pace of policy review. We are encouraged that the ACCC sees this as an ongoing process and is calling for a permanent digital platforms branch to monitor and investigate the activities of digital platforms and make recommendations to government. This report must be just the starting point in the regulation of these companies and the oversight of their activities and impacts on Australian consumers and businesses.

Paul Murphy, chief executive, MEAA

“In this review, the ACCC has acknowledged that the ubiquity of Google and Facebook has placed them in a ‘privileged position’ in Australia’s media landscape where they have substantial bargaining power with news media businesses.

“We also agree that these companies are both ‘rivals’ and ‘unavoidable’ business partners of Australian media content producers.

“Google and Facebook need to negotiate responsibly with media content organisations and start paying for the content they have thus far exploited for free.

“MEAA supports the urgent development of a regulated code of conduct governing digital platforms’ commercial relationships with news media businesses.

“We are pleased that the ACCC has picked up on recommendations first made by MEAA to support public interest journalism.”

Nerida O’Loughlin, chair, ACMA

“The ACMA welcomes the government’s acceptance of the ACCC’s conclusion that there is a need for reform and in particular, the development of a harmonised media regulatory framework.

“We will review the report in detail and stand ready to participate and contribute to the Government’s public consultation process and consideration of the recommendations.

“The Digital Platforms Inquiry is a significant contribution to the global debate on the future regulatory settings for these important and influential services. We congratulate the ACCC on their work to date.”

Bridget Fair, CEO, Free TV

“We have been calling for a strong regulatory response that allows our members to fairly monetise their content on the digital platforms since our initial submission to this inquiry in April 2018. The ACCC Final Report goes a long way towards delivering this outcome.

“We particularly congratulate the ACCC on its recommendation for a Code of Conduct which would force Google and Facebook to negotiate fairly with Australian news media businesses. The ability of Australian media companies to monetise their content on the digital platforms is
critical for their future.

“Free TV has also consistently stated that our media laws have failed to keep pace with the dramatic changes in the media landscape. Pleasingly the ACCC has recognised the need for a harmonised media regulatory framework. We hope that the most obvious cases of regulatory
disparity can be addressed quickly.

“Commercial television broadcasters are the cornerstone of the Australian production sector and invest significantly in trusted news and local journalism, as well as Australian entertainment, drama and live sport.

“Minister Fletcher highlighted the importance of cultural policy objectives. Our focus is having a regulatory framework that supports the ability of Free TV broadcasters to continue playing our critical role in meeting this objective.

“Accountability and transparency are central to curbing the unrestricted market power of Google and Facebook. We welcome the increased focus on anti-competitive conduct that will come from having a dedicated digital markets team within the ACCC.

“On the taking down of illegal material, the ACCC has clearly identified the deficiencies in the current processes for seeking removal. We need a rapid and efficient process of having illegal material removed from the digital platforms. We think that the proposed mandatory standard on takedown of pirated copyright material to be issued by the ACMA is a positive step towards this outcome.

“We look forward to working with the Government over the next 12 weeks to implement the ACCC’s recommendations.”

Gai Le Roy, CEO, IAB Australia

“IAB Australia is pleased that the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry final report recognises the importance of an advertising funded model in allowing consumers to freely access a wide range of important content and services. The IAB will closely review the recommendations made in the report and will work actively with both Industry and Government to identify the best approaches to meet the new consumer focused privacy recommendations as well as drive further transparency in the ad tech supply chain.

“Consumers have increasingly come to expect that their online experience is customised and relevant to them. As an industry it’s essential therefore that we work together to find the right balance between delivering customised and relevant content and advertising experience to consumers which respects their privacy, while also allowing businesses to operate in a way that allows them to meet those consumers expectations.

“Our organisation and Board is well equipped to deliver given its considerable experience driving consumer and industry standards and guidelines locally, while globally, IAB has been a key player working with governments and industry to implement solutions that work for both consumers and business. IAB Australia’s purpose is to drive sustainable and diverse investment in digital advertising in Australia and we look forward to continuing to drive important market initiatives that support this purpose.”

Peter Miller, CEO, NewsMediaWorks

“We believe in the power and importance of premium, professionally-generated news content.  Therefore, we welcome all initiatives that create a more level playing field, allowing our members to better monetise their content and ensure that all Australians continue to have access to high-quality news and journalism.”

John-Broome_Mumbrella360-2018_Close-upJohn Broome, CEO, AANA

“We will carefully consider the report and consult with our members before making detailed comment on the report’s recommendations but it is clear to us already that much of the Commissioners’ report will be warmly welcomed by our members.

“We particularly support the recommendations strengthening consumer protection and consent in relation to the use of their data and the recognition that media regulation must change to reflect the new reality.

“We will engage fully with the Government during the forthcoming consultation process and participate in the proposed inquiry into the operation of ad tech services and advertising and media agencies.”

Craig Young, president, AMSRO

“Rigorously protecting people’s personal information, ethical behavior and independent certification are the three pillars that underpin AMSRO member company compliance. The ACCC’s recommendations to beef up consumer privacy protections by increasing consent and notification requirements of digital platforms, including Google and Facebook, is very welcome, and closely mirrors the way that legitimate market research companies in Australia currently deal with consumer data.”

“Personal information for market and social research conducted by AMSRO member organisations is collected only with specific and informed consent and under strict codes and practices, and it’s high time that other organisations collecting, storing and sharing personal information and data comply with a similar regime. If we are to expect ongoing co-operation from the public, whose opinions are the lifeblood of our industry and others, we all need to be transparent, responsible and held to account.

“AMSRO and its members will fully examine the ACCC’s final report over the coming week and be available to consult with the government should the need arise.”

Sunita Bose, managing director, DIGI

“We urge the Australian government to assess the ACCC’s recommendations against an innovation test, closely examining how they will impact Australia’s digital industry at large and Australia’s global standing as a place to invest in technology.

“The terms of reference of the Inquiry were to look at the impact of digital platforms on competition in the media and advertising services market, with the incredibly important goal of protecting the future of journalism.

“We’re closely reviewing these recommendations to ensure they don’t bring unintended consequences to all digital businesses and the choice of digital products available to Australian consumers.

“A thriving technology sector means having large and small, local and global companies all alongside each other, creating an ecosystem where the calibre of employees, business opportunities and the choice of digital services available to Australians all increase.

“We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Government on these recommendations.”


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.