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CANBERRA, Australia – Global digital platforms Google and Facebook will be forced to pay for news content in Australia, the government announced on Monday as the coronavirus pandemic caused advertising revenue to plummet.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would publish draft rules in late July for platforms to pay fair compensation for journalistic content siphoned from the media.
Frydenberg said he believed Australia could succeed where other countries, including France and Spain, had failed to charge Google and Facebook.
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“We will not comply with their threats,” Frydenberg told reporters. “We understand the challenge we face. It’s a big mountain to climb. These are big companies we are dealing with, but there are also so many issues, so we are ready for this fight. “
ACCC had attempted to negotiate a voluntary code by which global giants would agree to pay traditional media for their content.
But the parties were unable to agree on “this key issue of paying for content,” said Frydenberg.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Australia would take a different approach from Europe, relying on competition law rather than copyright.
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Google and Facebook said they were working until the ACCC November deadline to negotiate a voluntary code.
“We are disappointed with the government’s announcement, especially since we have worked hard to meet the agreed deadline,” Facebook general manager for Australia and New Zealand, Will Easton, said in a statement. .
“COVID-19 has had an impact on all businesses and sectors across the country, including publishers, which is why we announced a new global investment to support news agencies at a time when advertising revenues are decreasing, “he added, referring to an investment of $ 100 million. in the information industry announced in March.
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Google said it has contacted more than 25 Australian publishers to seek their advice on a voluntary code.
“We have sought to work constructively with industry, ACCC and government to develop a code of conduct, and will continue to do so as part of the revised process established by government today,” said a press release from Google.
ACCC President Rod Sims downplayed the prospect of Google closing its Australian news platform rather than paying for content as it had done in Spain.
“About 10% of research results are media articles. This will seriously affect the usefulness, for example, of Google search, so I think we have to understand that there is value in both directions here and I think it will be difficult for Google and Facebook to say that we will have no contact with the news. media, “Sims told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Michael Miller, Australasia Executive Chairman of News Corp. Australia, the country’s largest newspaper publisher, said: “We are looking for fair payment and at the same time substantial payment. “
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Frydenberg declined to estimate how much Google and Facebook would pay the news media, if not to say it would be millions of dollars.
Google made up 47% of online advertising spending, except for classifieds in Australia, and Facebook claimed 24%, he said.
Media companies have stopped printing dozens of newspaper headlines across Australia because the closure of the pandemic prompted advertisers to stop spending.