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Sunday, April 18, 2021

The new Australian news media bargain code: Explained

As we look into the new Australian news media bargain code, the court ensures that the news outlets are remunerated for their content.

The Australian parliament on February 17th passed a piece of legislation called the news media bargaining code. Now under this code, it is required that Facebook and Google pay Australian news outlets for displaying their content. What is the new Australian news media bargain code?

There’s an ongoing battle between the big tech companies and the Australian government. But the Australian Broadcast Channel (ABC), couldn’t put up a spoof which was made in regards to this battle on their Facebook page.

This is because, Facebook has restricted news feeds Australia. Which means, publishers and users cannot post accesses or share any news stories about Australia on Facebook. If a person tires to do so, he or she is greeted by a message which reads: “In response to Australian government legislation, Facebook restricts the posting of news link and all posts from news pages in Australia. Globally, the posting and sharing of news links from Australian publication is restricted.”

The new Australian news media bargain code has been under development from last three years and the Australian competition and consumer commission, in its 18th month’s enquiry discovered an imbalance in power between big tech platforms like Facebook and Google and all news outlets.

What is this imbalance about?

The share of digital advertising revenue has hiked since a decade now as products and services owned by the big tech companies have become a big part of our daily lives. Social Media giants, Facebook and Google, commanded a dominating share in the areas of digital advertising.

Facebook and Google accounts for more than 50% of the online advertising revenue, across most markets and regions. Advertisements have been the biggest source of media revenue through print, digital or even broadcast, as Facebook in Australia has a 62% share.

As digital advertising outshines traditional advertising the increase in the shares of big tech companies in the area of digital advertising has weakened the areas of news and news publishers.

It’s not that the news outlets have always been upset. The big tech companies, especially Facebook was able to move outlets as it gained enough traffic and its algorithmic feed gave news content its desired reputation.

As Facebook grew in size, it changed algorithm in order to have more engagement and also more ad revenue. Now these changes did not help news outlets particularly as there was a shift from written content to short videos.

This was a major push by platforms like Facebook to get into video in order to match up with competitors like the YouTube. As the video type in media companies had subsided, news agencies that focused on making short videos, fired many writers and journalists.

What is the Australian Court saying?

The news publishers of news agencies followed a suit, because at one hand either the news incentives were too lucrative as per traffic or per click, or maybe because they just weren’t big enough to negotiate with big tech companies.

As we look into the new Australian news media bargain code, the court ensures that the news outlets are remunerated for their content. It mandates a framework under which these news outlets can bargain with Facebook and reach and binding agreement.

Having said that, the media companies are encouraged to make commercial deals outside the court. And already a deal has been cracked by three of the biggest media groups in Australia. News Corp and Seven West Media signed a deal where they will receive payments from Google for featuring in its news showcase.

But can an Australian news publisher crack deals with any media giants or is it only applicable to a select news organization? Well, for a news publisher to qualify for the court it needs to have an annual revenue which should be above 150,000 Australian Dollars, in the most recent year or in any of three of the last five years.

Critics of the court have stated that the major force behind the court is Rupert Murdoch who is an Australian-born billionaire media tycoon who is also the owner of News Corp, which is the group that earns The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and some of the largest Australian Channels and newspapers which includes The Australian, The Advertiser and the Sky News.

Looking at the imbalance and the suit and trying to make sense of the new Australian news media bargain code, it can be understood that the game of big tech and its media is actually a complicated subject. One cannot expect a quick fix, because there isn’t any. Certainly not from the regulations that are aimed more at tilting the balance of power back to big media, than helping journalism.

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