SBS, The Brag and The Conversation respond to Facebook’s snub on media deal

Facebook has told several Australian publishers it has stopped negotiating licensing deals, just six months after the passing of a law designed to make tech giants pay for news content.

Despite the social media outlet securing deals with broadcasters and news outlets such as ABC, NineNews Corp, Seven and many others, SBS has been snubbed, along with not-for-profit The Conversation Australia, online outlet – The Brag Media and Women’s Agenda.

Earlier in the year Facebook and the Australian Government came to loggerheads over the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which saw Facebook remove all news site posts from its platform for Australian users. The ban was short lived but led to amendments to the code which was later passed by parliament. Since then Facebook has signed deals with Australian publishers and news outlets worth multimillions of dollars for news sharing on the platform.

“SBS is surprised and disappointed that Facebook has declined to enter negotiations to seek a commercial agreement with SBS in relation to its news content,” an SBS spokesperson told Mumbrella. “We are concerned about the impact on our audiences and discoverability of SBS content on the Facebook platform, noting that many of our audiences access SBS through Facebook.

An SBS spokesperson added: “SBS has a unique role in Australia’s news media landscape providing trusted, accurate and impartial Australian news and information in more than 60 languages, including essential services to multicultural and First Nations Australians. SBS plays an important role in countering misinformation.

“This outcome is at odds with the government’s intention of supporting public interest journalism, and in particular including the public service broadcasters in the Code framework with respect to remuneration.”

Publisher and co-founder of Women’s Agenda Angela Priestley, told Mumbrella: “Women’s Agenda has signed a deal with Google for its News product – however negotiations with Facebook were unproductive and frustrating and resulted in being redirected to a grant option instead.”

The Brag Media CEO Luke Girgis told Mumbrella: “Despite reaching 20% of the population every month, Facebook and Google won’t even talk to us. It’s no surprise, we don’t do much political content so they have no reason to be scared of us and therefore there is no motivation to engage with us in any way.

“It’s no coincidence that the publications Facebook and Google have done deals with are those that mainly publish political stories. Those are the publications Facebook and Google at best want to influence or at worst – shut them up. It’s a smart strategy on their part.”

Surprisingly, The Conversation Australia which covers a significant amount of political commentary has also struggled to engage with the social media platform.

CEO Lisa Watts told Mumbrella: “The experience with Facebook has been surprising. Having had positive negotiations with Google, we always expected Facebook would enter discussion in good faith. Overall, our history with Facebook has been one of collaboration. We were among the first media outlets to sign up to the accelerator program that Facebook created to help media outlets monetise its audiences.

“The know-how generated from the program and the funding and advertising we have been granted has helped The Conversation grow our donations revenue. When Facebook’s representatives recently confirmed they would feature our content on their new ‘Facebook News’ product but unlike other media outlets, The Conversation would not be paid for its content, we were surprised. The Conversation is not a small media outlet, with a team of 30 professional journalists and a large audience.

“We aim to democratise knowledge and work with academic experts to inject evidence into public debate. The Conversation articles are influential in changing behaviour and attitudes. They are frequently used as a source for evidence-based information in classrooms, the workplace and political sphere. All articles are free for other media to use. Refusing to recognise the value of academic journalism and multicultural broadcasting says a lot about Facebook’s commitment to fact-based public interest journalism,” a spokesperson concluded.

Facebook’s head of news partnerships for Australia and New Zealand, Andrew Hunter, said of the situation: “Commercial deals are just one of the ways that Facebook provides support to publishers, and we’ve been having ongoing discussions with publishers about the types of news content that can best deliver value for publishers and for Facebook.

“Our commercial deals are based on a range of factors including, the type of content developed, and reach and engagement. We’re continuing to engage with publishers to support them with how they can benefit from free referral traffic, monetisation products, and other initiatives and investments. We will continue to make investments in programs such as the Facebook Australian News Fund and offer support to help newsrooms innovate their content for online audiences.”

A Facebook spokesperson said commercial deals do not follow a one-size-fits all approach.

“We’ve been in discussions with publishers on the type of news content that can best deliver value for publishers and for Facebook. For example, our deals are created to support various types of content, video deals, paywalled subscriptions deals, and innovation deals,” the spokesperson commented.

“As commercial deals vary, we’re outlining to publishers a number of objective criteria that is informing our commercials investments arrangements, including reach (both on and off Facebook), engagement, and other factors such as media diversity and plurality, and whether publishers have premium or paywalled content that is not otherwise available on Facebook. It’s also very important to note that commercial deals are just one of the ways that Facebook provides support and value to the news industry.”

As for value for publishers, Facebook said its support for the Australian news ecosystem happens in three ways such as customised tools to help publishers more effectively monetise their content on its services.

In addition, Facebook commented its also invested in a range of programs and funds to grow and monetise audiences for smaller and regional publishers, to build up digital skills and assist in the digital transformation of smaller newsrooms around the country.

The newest of these is the Facebook Australian News Fund – an investment from Facebook totalling A$15 million across three years.

This follows over three years of investment including a ​​A$1.5 million investment in the 2019-20 reader revenue accelerator supporting 11 ANZ news publishers – the A$1 million COVID-19 relief fund that went to 17 rural, regional and community newsrooms across Australia and the newly-awarded Accelerator Alumni Grants.


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.