“An Untidy Short-Term Compromise” – Meta On News Media Bargaining Code

“An Untidy Short-Term Compromise” – Meta On News Media Bargaining Code

Meta has made a thinly veiled threat to pull news from its platforms unless the federal government changes to or revokes the current News Media Bargaining Code.

The Code, which was passed in 2021, gives the Treasury the power to force digital platforms into signing commercial agreements with news businesses. So far, no platform has been required to do so under the code but Meta and Google have voluntarily signed deals with a number of businesses.

In May last year, the government set out to review the code and released its findings in December, saying the code had been a “success to date.” At the time, Meta declined to comment on the review.

However, the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company’s submission has now been released.

“Since its passage, the law has been globally touted by publishers as a successful model to
support public interest journalism,” read Meta’s submission.

“It is better described as an untidy and short-term compromise that we have nonetheless tried to work with in good faith.

“While we were already planning to invest in Australian news prior to the legislation passing, the law distorted our approach to investment.

“As long as the law stands and any digital platform can face designation, it will deter platforms from making news available on their services or attempting to work with publishers to solve their business model challenges.”

The Code does not technically apply to Google or Meta, despite their commercial agreements with publishers. However, should they be “designated” by the Treasury, they would be legally forced to enter negotiations with publishers or risk fines of up to 10 per cent of their Australian revenue.

Google’s submission, meanwhile, talked up its partnerships with news outlets that ranged from cash payments to training and internship funding. However, the Search giant did not endorse the code either. It said it preferred to strike deals “in a way that makes sense for our business and in a non-adversarial context.”

It also said that “industry-specific news, sports, recreation, arts, lifestyle or entertainment” should be excluded from the Code’s definition of news.

When the review was published, Google’s director of government affairs & public policy, Lucinda Longcroft said, “Over the last two years, we’ve furthered our significant contribution to the Australian news industry by launching News Showcase and signing agreements with more than 70 Australian news businesses, representing 200 mastheads across the country. The majority of these outlets are regional or local.”

B&T has asked Meta for comment.




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