The industry (mostly) welcomes the government’s response to ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry

Yesterday saw the Morrison government hand down its response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry. Here, media industry leaders provide their thoughts on the government's promises, what it could mean for the future, and any disappointments they have about the response.

Hugh Marks, CEO, Nine:

“This is a much-needed and timely announcement from the government in response to the recommendations that had been made by the ACCC as part of their Digital Platforms Inquiry. It provides a clear timeline and platform for our industry to be able to engage with the social media platforms on a basis we ultimately believe will be a win-win not only for our industry and the people that work in it, but the social platforms as well.

“We congratulate the Prime Minister, Minister Fletcher and the government on its bold statement and look forward to the next steps in achieving recognition of the value that our content and our journalism means to the social platforms and their audiences.”

Michael Miller_M360 2018

Michael Miller, executive chairman, News Corp Australasia

“We are encouraged the government is taking action on a number of fronts to deal with the power imbalances the digital platforms hold over media businesses.

“Most of these initial steps are aligned with where the world is heading, but more reforms are needed to protect consumers and ensure a vibrant and viable media industry.

“The new unit within the ACCC to oversee digital platforms and an inquiry into the murky waters of ad tech are welcomed – they are important and necessary.

“However, the government’s approach of a voluntary code of conduct to oversee commercial arrangements as a first step appears out-of-kilter with leaders of other jurisdictions who have advocated firmer action.”

James Warburton, CEO and managing director, Seven West Media:

“We welcome today’s response from the government to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report that supports the majority of the ACCC’s recommendations.

“Seven is particularly pleased by the announced process to swiftly address out-of-date Australian content requirements that are currently holding back Australian media businesses. We encourage the government to move quickly to provide certainty to industry and put in place a new framework for content that better reflects commercial realities and the changed viewing patterns of Australian audiences.

“The urgent need for regulatory equality between foreign digital platforms and Australian companies has been recognised by the government. We see this as a real turning point, as for too long legislation has lagged well behind technological evolution, disadvantaging Australian companies and providing foreign digital platforms with a free ride.

“We are disappointed that the government is not pursuing a mandatory takedown scheme for copyright-infringing material as recommended by the ACCC. But it is pleasing that the government has committed to reviewing copyright enforcement mechanisms during 2020.

“We look forward to working with the government as this process moves forward, to ensure a regulatory environment that is appropriate in the digital age, to better protect consumers and provide a more level playing field for Australian businesses.”

Paul Anderson, CEO, Network Ten

“It’s great the government is making a serious attempt to address the deep-rooted dominance of the online tech and streaming giants.

“On free-to-air content regulation, the issues are clear and the answers are already there. We just have to get cracking and get it done.”

Bridget Fair, CEO, Free TV

“Australia’s media regulations are crying out for urgent modernisation. The roadmap today outlined by the government sets a clear timetable for that to occur.

“It is pleasing that the government has recognised that action is needed to address critical imbalances in the regulatory framework and the competitive position of Australian media companies.

“For far too long, Free TV broadcasters have been operating under a regulatory framework developed last century, while trying to compete against unregulated digital platforms for advertising revenue and audience attention.

“We look forward to engaging with the process outlined by the government in early 2020 to quickly reform the ageing Australian content framework. Free TV is proudly the home of great local content and spent $1.63bn on Australian programming in FY19. Australians know they can turn to free TV services for their entertainment, drama, local news and live sport.

“It is hard to overstate the pressing need for action in this area to allow commercial television broadcasters to focus on delivering the content our audiences want to watch rather than servicing outdated quota obligations. This is particularly the case for children’s content, where audience demands and behaviour have changed dramatically.

“Our investment in great local content will also be better supported by the proposed voluntary commercial bargaining Code of Conduct between digital platforms and media businesses. Our members are committed to working with the digital platforms and the ACCC in putting these codes in place by November 2020. Importantly, the government has reserved the right to create a mandatory code should agreement not be reached with the digital platforms.

“We congratulate the ACCC for a comprehensive two-year review process that led to the recommendations that the government has today accepted. With urgent action to implement the roadmap, the Morrison government can lead the world in recognising that the rising power of the digital platforms cannot be left unchecked.”

Paul Murphy , chief executive, Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)

“The Australian newspaper market was valued at $4.6bn in 2010.

“Despite digital transformation and thousands of jobs lost, the sector is now worth about $2.5bn. Commercial television networks are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year – all while Australia’s population increases.

“These trends seem locked in: the costs are further cuts to quality media, greater reliance on untested (and sometimes dangerous) content and a loss of capacity to produce local and national news that serves our democracy.

“Australia has missed a golden opportunity to create rules that are fair to all.”

Gai Le Roy, CEO, IAB

“The government’s response to the recommendations from the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry provides much-welcomed clarity around both the process and roadmap to support a sustainable Australian media landscape in the digital age. The IAB’s considerable experience both local and globally in the issues of privacy, as well as industry standards and guidelines places us in a unique position to continue closely consulting with government as they work through their inquiry into ad tech services and advertising agencies, as well as their work in strengthening protections in the Privacy Act.”

Joan Warner, CEO, Commercial Radio Australia

“The government has responded within their stated time frame, which is an encouraging sign of how seriously they are taking these issues and their intent to bring about change.

“The industry is very pleased there will be concrete moves towards harmonisation of media regulation, as commercial radio remains one of the most over-regulated platforms in the media and communications sector. We hope the ‘phased’ approach does not mean we have to wait years for effective change, nor will have to go through another round of inquiries and submission writing.

“We are supportive of the development of voluntary codes to address the power imbalance. We look forward to working with the ACCC and other stakeholders to develop a practical and workable code.

“We also note the government has specifically stated it will review Australian and children’s content requirements for free-to-air television services. We assume that the heavy local content requirements and associated compliance burden on local radio stations will also be part of any such review in the light of the government’s stated wish to have a more harmonious and fair media regulation framework that can be applied across digital and traditional media.”

Professor Allan Fels, chair, Public Interest Journalism Initiative

“One of the lessons of digital disruption is how fast it can affect or destroy existing industries.

“So now is the time for the government to act, not defer.

“Public interest journalism is dying before our eyes, particularly in rural, regional and suburban areas. There are already news deserts, decimated newsrooms and thousands of lost journalist jobs.

“The government has decided not to make further changes to the tax settings to support public interest journalism at this time. But it will be tragic for local communities and their dwindling newsrooms if the government dismisses tax measures without conducting further study.

“These communities face becoming less informed about their own local institutions – like councils and courtrooms – than the US Presidential race.

“A range of initiatives need to be in play if we are to protect public interest journalism across the spectrum, from large commercial players to localised public broadcasting.

“One needs only to look at the public benefit sparked by journalism surrounding the Banking Royal Commission to understand its importance in a healthy democracy.”


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