Australia to force Facebook, Google to pay media companies for content

Australia pushes plan to force , Google to pay for news

Australia to force Facebook, Google to pay media companies for content

Australia finalised plans on Tuesday to make Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay its media outlets for news content, a world-first move aimed at protecting independent journalism that has been strongly opposed by the internet giants.

Under laws to go to parliament this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Big Tech firms must negotiate with local publishers and broadcasters how much they pay for content that appears on their platforms. If they cannot strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide for them.

“This is a huge reform, this is a world first and the world is watching what happens here in Australia,” Frydenberg told reporters in the capital, Canberra.

“Our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world … and ultimately sustain our media landscape.”

The law amounts to the strongest check of the tech giants’ market power globally, and follows three years of inquiry and consultation, ultimately spilling into a public brawl in August when the US companies warned it may stop them from offering their services in Australia.

Australia managing director Will Easton said on Tuesday the company would review the legislation and “engage through the upcoming parliamentary process with the goal of landing on a workable framework to support Australia’s news ecosystem”.

A representative for Google declined to comment on Tuesday, saying the company had yet to see the final version of the proposed law.

Starving newsrooms

Until recently, most countries have stood by as advertisers redirect spending to the world’s biggest social media website and search engine, starving newsrooms of their main revenue source and bringing widespread shutdowns and job losses.

But regulators are starting to test their power to rein in the two mega-corporations which take more than four-fifths of Australian online advertising spending between them, according to Frydenberg. This year, a French regulator told Google to negotiate with publishers over payment for news content and the matter remains before the courts.

How consumers access news sites in Australia [Bloomberg]“It’s both very ambitious and very necessary,” said Denis Muller, an Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism, referring to the Australian law.

“Taking their news content without paying for it, in exchange for a very questionable reward of ‘reach’, seems to be a very unfair and uneven and ultimately democratically damaging arrangement.”

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said the law was “a significant step forward in the decade-long campaign to achieve fairness in the relationship between Australian news media companies and the global tech giants”. In May, News Corp stopped printing more than 100 Australian newspapers, citing declining advertising.

In changes to draft legislation announced earlier this year that might favour the tech companies, the final version of the law would not affect news content distributed on ’s Instagram subsidiary or Google’s .

But Frydenberg added to the list of media companies with whom the tech giants must negotiate, saying public broadcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corp and specialist public broadcaster SBS would be included, along with dominant private sector outlets News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd.

Drawing a line

In a blog posting in late August, said that the proposal was unfair and would allow publishers to charge any price they want. If the legislation becomes law, the company says it will take the unprecedented step of preventing Australians from sharing news on and Instagram.

By pushing back in Australia, is telling other European regulators what to expect in disputes over the platform’s use of news, said Rob Nicholls, an associate professor at the business school of the University of New South Wales in Sydney. At the very least, wants to force a change in the legislation, or even delay its introduction, he said.

“If you draw a line in the sand here, you’ve effectively provided that benchmark for negotiations,” Nicholls said.

The chairman of Australia’s competition watchdog, Rod Sims, said in an interview in July that he knew of several counterparts overseas considering taking similar steps to Australia’s.

In June, Google said it would pay some media outlets that will be featured in a yet-to-be-released news service in Germany, Australia and Brazil.

Last October, introduced a separate news section, paying some publishers whose stories were featured.

Source: News Agencies


Why banned (and then unbanned) news in Australia

Australia to force Facebook, Google to pay media companies for content
is blocking Australians from sharing news links in response to a proposed law that would force the company to pay for news. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

If you’re an Australian user who loves to share the news on your timeline, you may have noticed something different recently: You can’t.

In the next few days, though, things should go back to normal.

Less than a week after suddenly banning news links for Australian users and shutting down Australian news pages to protest an upcoming law, says it’s gotten reassurances from the Australian government that it won’t be forced to pay publishers but will instead be given the chance to negotiate agreements with them — which it’s already starting to do. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, has agreed to pay the major Australian media company Seven West Media for news content and is in negotiations with another called Nine Entertainment.

Australia has now passed the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which could force and Google to pay publishers if they host their content.

The law is a response to years-long complaints from news outlets around the world about the role that Google and — and their mammoth digital ad businesses — have played in the decline of journalism and the decimation of its business model in the internet age.

The two companies responded to the then-potential law in very different ways: Google made deals with Australian news publishers; decided to cut them off entirely.

After a few days of Australians seeing what was without the news, a sizable amount of worldwide backlash against the company, and talks with the Australian government that resulted in a few last-minute changes to the law, decided that the new terms were good enough for its ban to end. The law passed a few days later.

Previously, had banned all users from sharing links to Australian news sources, Australian publications’ pages from hosting any of their own content, and Australian users from sharing any news links, Australian or international. Here’s what the platform looked during the great news blackout:

This is what happened when anyone in the world tried to share a link to an Australian news source. This is what Australia’s news pages looked .

also blocked anything it thought was an Australian news source — which included several sites that were decidedly not news outlets. There were reports of government pages being restricted, for example. (Also, bike trails.)

Even non-Australian news pages,, were blocked for Australian users.

The overzealous ban, however, was apparently intentional and maybe even a little bit punitive.

“As the law does not provide a clear guidance on the definition of news content, we have taken a broad definition in order to respect the law as drafted,” told Recode when it initially imposed the ban. “However, we will reverse any Pages that are inadvertently impacted.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said ’s move would only make his government more determined to pass the law — and might encourage a few other governments to do something similar.

“’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” Morrison wrote in a post.

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of BigTech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

He added: “We will not be intimidated by BigTech seeking to pressure our Parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code.”

The law hated but Google is learning (and paying) to live with

The law, which passed on Thursday, says that digital platforms and Google have to pay news organizations if their content is featured on those platforms, in Google search results or shares, unless they make enough deals with those organizations outside of the law.

If the platforms and the publishers can’t come to a payment agreement, they’ll go before an arbiter who will decide a fair price for them that they will have to pay, or else face significant penalties.

The treasury minister decides which digital platforms are subject to the law.

Google and , who dominate a digital ad business that pays them billions of dollars while news organizations go bankrupt, have been vehemently opposed to the law. Over the past several months, both have threatened to take their services away from Australians if it were to pass.

Google blinked first, and began working out payment deals with Australian publications. A week ago, it announced a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Murdoch, Australia’s exceedingly rich and powerful news magnate and native son, has been very vocal about wanting a law that forces digital platforms to pay his publications, and he may well have influenced the country’s decision to move forward with this law.

News Corp now has a multi-year deal with Google. Terms were not disclosed, but the New York Times reported it was worth tens of millions of dollars. Google also made a deal with Australia’s Seven West Media and has agreed to work out licensing deals with French publications as France considers a similar law.

, obviously, took a different tack. Its stated reasoning was that if Australians can’t share news links, and Australian news organizations can’t post their own content, then Australia’s law won’t apply to it — after all, there’s nothing to pay media companies for.

But there’s also no law in place yet. cut off Australian news publications before it really had to, which gave them, their government, and their readers a taste of what was to come if the media law went through.

might have been hoping that a preview of its platform without Australian news would make lawmakers more amenable to passing a version of the law that preferred. Now that Australian lawmakers have, in fact, added a few amendments, it seems that gamble was correct.

will still have to pay for the news one way or the other if it wants its platform to host links, but it has a little bit more control than it did before.

might be in the right here. It depends on whom you believe

While some have cheered Australia’s move, reasoning that anything that gets tech companies to pay news organizations back for the content (or ad dollars) they’ve used to build their own platforms is a net positive, other media analysts believe the law is a case of the government forcing companies to pay other companies — specifically, those owned by one of that government’s richest and most influential (former) citizens. What was well-intentioned may end up only making rich people even richer, with little benefit to anyone else.

Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis called the law a case of “media blackmail” and said Google had “caved” to “the devil Murdoch.” , he said, either “stood on principle” or just decided news content for Australian users wasn’t worth enough to the company to have to pay for it.

But others pointed out that the way went about standing on that principle may have done more harm than good; that suddenly depriving users of a service on which they’ve come to rely (including pages that have nothing to do with the news that also got caught in the ban) will only make them angry at , not Murdoch or the Australian government. And the rest of the world wouldn’t look kindly on for the move, either.

“ managed to turn attention away from a flawed piece of legislation and on to its own reckless, opaque power,” wrote Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School. “Even for a company that specializes in public relations disasters, this was quite an achievement.”

said last week that it didn’t think the law “recognizes the realities of how our services work.” The social network believes that it’s actually the publishers that benefit from , not the other way around.

“Last year generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated AU$407 million,” said. (Take those figures, which have not been independently verified, with a very large grain of salt.

) And apparently barely needs news articles, which the company says makes up “less than four percent of the content people see in their News Feed.

” That might be because has, in recent years, intentionally deemphasized news links in News Feeds in favor of posts from friends and family, and removed the “Trending” box that featured links to news articles.

In fact, said, it lets news organizations use its services for free, posting links to their articles for users, who then click on those links and give those news organizations precious traffic.

What didn’t say was that this traffic isn’t worth nearly as much to those publishers as it could be, because and Google control the majority of the digital ads market and make most of the money from it, rather than the outlets whose content those ads are posted on.

This is why Australia wants to force them to pay those publishers fairly in the first place.

A few other places, including France and Canada — and even the much larger European Union — have suggested they might follow Australia’s lead, too.

claims that it’s not opposed to paying news organizations and had wanted to launch in Australia News, a platform on which the company would pay publishers to license their content, as it’s already doing in the United States and the United Kingdom. Those deals would, of course, be on ’s terms.

a boomerang, comes back around

The standoff came to an end less than a week after it started, with both sides claiming victory.

“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,” VP of global news partnerships Campbell Brown said in a statement to Recode. “We’re restoring news on in Australia in the coming days.”

The Australian government said it was introducing “further amendments” to the law, which appear to give more time to work out deals with news organizations and make investments in journalism, helping it avoid the mandatory arbitration it’s been so against. It’s very possible that the law won’t actually apply to anyone in the end, because and Google will be voluntarily paying enough news organizations to avoid it.

’s Brown also said that could very well re-ban the news in Australia if it doesn’t how things are going: “Going forward, the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on so that we won’t automatically be subject to a forced negotiation.”

In Australia, the question now becomes which news organizations will truly benefit from the law, or if most of that money is going to the major players with very little left for the small, non-Murdoch publications the law was supposed to help. If Google and are able to work out enough deals that the law no longer applies to them, smaller publications may still be left to accept whatever they’re offered. They may be the ultimate losers here.

Globally, this has shown that Google and will pay for news, but that they’ll do as much as possible for it to be on their own terms. was willing to cut off Australia’s news pages and links to bully an entire country passing a law it didn’t .

It may have won a few concessions here, but the rest of the world — including the United States, which is currently considering if Big Tech companies have too much power — may not have taken the lesson from this that wants them to.

Countries may be more motivated than ever to check ’s power before it gets much greater.

“,”author”:”Sara Morrison”,”date_published”:”2021-02-18T16:30:51.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:”×3597/fit-in/1200×630/”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”–news-ban-google-money”,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”A law that would require some tech companies to pay news publishers is making waves around the world.”,”word_count”:2030,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}


Australia is making Google and pay for news: what difference will the code make?

Australia to force Facebook, Google to pay media companies for content

The Australian government tabled world-first media legislation in parliament on Wednesday that will force Google and to negotiate a fair payment with news organisations for using their content in ’s newsfeed and Google’s search.

The Australian law is separate to a recent deal made to pay mainstream UK news outlets millions of pounds a year to license their articles, but has a similar motivation. The social network signed the deals as it faces the threat of a government crackdown over its dominance of online advertising.

Why was the law necessary?

The law has been designed to address the loss of advertising revenue from traditional media companies to the digital behemoths: for every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 to and $19 to everyone else.

The loss of advertising revenue has been partially offset by subscriptions but it hasn’t been enough to stem the cuts to newsrooms, journalists leaving the industry and media outlets going broke and closing. Meanwhile Google and are doing very well: Google made $4.3bn in advertising revenue in Australia last year and made $0.

7bn, according to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Newspapers say Google makes money from news and analysis provided by media organisations, and users would find Google and much less helpful if no news appeared on their feeds or in their search results.

The draft code was made more urgent as it was released in the midst of the pandemic, as News Corp Australia stopped printing 60 of its local newspapers and regional newspapers in Victoria, some older than 100 years, shut suddenly as advertising revenue dried up overnight.

The code aims to ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.

Why has it taken so long?

It’s been three years since the government asked the competition regulator, the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission, to inquire into the impact of and Google on the state of competition in media and advertising.

Its 18-month inquiry found a bargaining power imbalance between news media organisations and the large digital platforms, and recommended that codes of conduct be negotiated to govern their commercial deals. The ACCC released a draft code and media companies and the platforms were asked to comment.

Was the proposed code welcomed?

The recommendation was welcomed by media companies and advocates of public interest journalism.

But Google and feared it would set a global precedent. The world is watching Australia’s landmark legislation.

threatened to block Australians from sharing news and Google ran a campaign against the draft media code arguing it was unfair.

Google took the extraordinary step of encouraging its users to fight the proposed legislation with yellow warning signs that said “the way Aussies search every day on Google is at risk from new government regulation”.

Google also took the campaign to , telling creators to swamp the ACCC with objections.

The prime minister stepped in and warned them against employing “coercion” in their opposition to his plans.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 was finally tabled by the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, in the last sitting week of 2020.

How will the code work?

Media companies are encouraged to make commercial deals with and Google outside the code.

But the code gives them a framework to bargain and reach a binding agreement.

If they can’t agree, an arbiter will implement the “final offer arbitration” model to determine the level of remuneration.

The digital platforms will have to give the media 14 days’ advance notice of deliberate algorithm changes that affect news media businesses.

To keep bargaining costs low for smaller companies, the digital platforms can make standard offers, or media companies can bargain collectively.

Can Google and just refuse to negotiate?

If they do, they will pay a penalty of $10m, or 10% of annual Australian turnover, or three times the benefit obtained, whichever is the greater.

But the stiff penalty only applies if they breach the key provisions of failing to negotiate or take part in arbitration in good faith; failing to comply with an arbitration decision; or engaging in retaliatory action against news media companies.

Which media companies will be eligible for payments?

While News Corp Australia has campaigned aggressively for the code, it has the broad support of the industry including Guardian Australia. Nine Entertainment, publishers of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, are on board as is Seven West Media, Australian Community Media, regional and small publishers.

A late change was made to the code to add the ABC and SBS, after the Greens said they wouldn’t support the legislation unless the public broadcasters were included.

Will the code affect me when I am reading news on or searching for news on Google?

No, the public won’t be aware of any differences.

A recent Guardian Essential poll found that a majority of Australians wanted the government to regulate the digital giants, and voters also supported moves to make and Google pay for mainstream media content.

The latest fortnightly survey of 1,034 voters showed three in five Australians (59%) agreed that and Google had too much power and should be regulated by the government, with 13% of respondents disagreeing with that proposition.

Has the code been watered down after lobbying by big tech?

Not really. The ACCC chair, Rod Sims, said he was pleased to see the final legislation and he supported what was tabled in parliament. successfully argued that Instagram should not be included in the code, and it also acknowledges that Google sends traffic to media companies.

“The aim of the code is to address the uneven bargaining position between Australian news media businesses and the big digital platforms who have clear market power,” Sims said.

“It would be good to see commercial agreements between platforms and news media businesses taking place outside the code process. Arbitration is a last resort, and exists to strengthen the media businesses’ bargaining position.

“The ACCC has been fully involved in the preparation of and consultation on the legislation and supports what has now been introduced.”

“,”author”:”Amanda Meade”,”date_published”:”2020-12-09T04:10:48.000Z”,”lead_image_url”:””,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”–pay-for-news-what-difference-will-the-code-make”,”domain”:””,”excerpt”:”The government’s legislation to force the tech giants to negotiate with news media companies is being closely watched around the world”,”word_count”:1039,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}


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