In response to the December digital platforms survey, the federal government asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to develop a code between media companies and digital platforms, including Google and Facebook.
The code was to oblige companies to negotiate in good faith on how to pay the media for the use of their content, to notify the media in advance of changes in algorithms that would affect the ranking of content, to favor the content from original sources in the search page results and share data with media companies.
The code was due to be finalized in November 2020, but after limited success in initial negotiations between platforms and the information industry – and in light of the sharp drop in advertising revenue – the government has now asked the ACCC to write a mandatory code.
The mandatory code will have the same elements as the proposed voluntary code, but would also include sanctions and binding dispute settlement mechanisms for negotiations between digital platforms and news organizations. It will also define the news content that would be covered by the code, and will encompass services beyond Google Search and the main Facebook platform, such as Instagram and Twitter.
A draft code will be finalized at the end of July, the government indicating that the final text will be settled soon after.
Frydenberg said it was fair that the media companies that created the content get paid for it.
“This will help create a level playing field,” he said.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the decision was about a solid and sustainable news media ecosystem.
“Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way multimedia content is produced, distributed and consumed,” he said.
“Digital platforms need to do more to improve the transparency of their operations for media providers, as they have a significant impact on the ability of media organizations to build and maintain an audience and leverage resources from media content they produce. “
Dozens of regional newspapers stopped printing during the pandemic due to declining advertising revenues, while a number of Australia’s largest media companies asked staff to cut wages or step down due loss of income.