ACCC chair Rod Sims believes tech giants Google and Facebook must continue in their efforts to support local news organisations.
Speaking at a conference organised by the Law Council of Australia in Sydney last week, Sims called on the government to accept the ACCC’s recommendation for a bargaining code to govern relations between tech giants and the media.
“For us, this is all about the future of journalism,” he said.
“Journalism is a public good and whenever you have a public good, particularly one as large as this, government is inevitably involved.”
As part of the ACCC’s 23 recommendation, the competition watchdog called for a new platform-neutral regulatory framework that addresses current “imbalances” between tech companies and traditional media.
Sims said that a code to govern business deals between Facebook, Google and traditional media companies was “the most important recommendation we came up with”.
“We think the code is needed because of that imbalance in bargaining position,” he said.
“We think that imbalance leads to market failure and does damage to journalism and needs to be addressed.”
Sims also gave a more detailed description of how such an imbalance has manifested.
“Digital platforms use media content to drive the consumers’ attention. The digital platforms do need the media, but they don’t need all of the media, they just need some of the media,” he said.
“Whereas all of the media companies need the digital platforms, so you get that imbalance of bargaining power, which is clearly there.”
Since the ACCC handed down its final report earlier this year, Facebook has inked short-term deals with Nine, Seven West Media, Network Ten, Sky News, Junkee Media and Pedestrian TV for Facebook News programming, while Google has updated its algorithms to promote original journalism.
But for Sims, there is still more to be done.
“There needs to be some mechanism that can draw out more change. We’ve seen change as a result of the pressure,” he said.
“It would be a tragedy to lose that pressure, so I’m very much hoping the government does support recommendation seven as a fundamental part of how we address the imbalance in bargaining power and we how address media issues.”
The government has been in consultation with relevant stakeholders since the report was handed down and is expected to reveal a new “harmonised” media framework by the end of the year.