Journalism’s Saviour Or Excessive Regulation? Google And Facebook Prepare To Pay For News

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A mandatory code between media companies and tech giants has the ability to address existing imbalances of power and help save Australian journalism.

That’s the view of LiveRamp ANZ country manager Natalya Pollard, who spoke to B&T following the government’s announcement of the mandatory code, which will be led by the ACCC and will address revenue sharing for the first time.

“Ultimately, the imbalance of power that exists currently in our industry inhibits a healthy digital ecosystem,” said Pollard. “The government’s aim of this code is to help create a level playing field within the industry.”

The concept of such a code was born out of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry, which took a deep dive into how these technology platforms had altered the Australian media landscape.

It was initially hoped involved parties could reach an agreement on their own terms, with the voluntary code given until November to take shape.

But the government surprised many last week – including Google and Facebook, both of which had commenced negotiations with media outlets – when it announced it was moving to enforce the agreement.

A draft code of conduct is expected as soon as July.

“While we cannot speculate as to why the government made the decision now to enforce the mandatory code, a likely symptom will be an accelerated path to restoring balance and collaboration industry-wide,” said Pollard.

“The media industry has experienced a collapse in advertising revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to many newsrooms across Australia, especially in regional areas, closing or scaling back their operations.

“The introduction of this code could support Australian journalism and the independent reporting of news.”

continued scrutiny 

The move to force Google and Facebook to pay for news content is just part of the Australian Government’s continued crackdown on tech giants.

Already this year, the ACCC commenced another inquiry into such businesses, this time with a specific focus on ad-tech.

So is the continued scrutiny justified?

“We believe the scrutiny the industry is facing is, to a degree, fair,” said Pollard. “As it stands, our industry needs to regain consumer trust. We failed to create an infrastructure with the consumer at the centre.”

“As an industry, we need to build a system that is strong enough to become self-regulated. This will only eventuate when we truly bring consumers’ data privacy to the forefront of decision making.

“At LiveRamp, we see this as the beginning of a new era of engagement for brands, publishers, marketers, and customers.”

The issues paper for the upcoming inquiry highlights questions around anti-competitive behaviour in the online advertising industry and businesses serving their own interests ahead of the interests of customers.

Pollard explained that like the mandatory code, asking such questions can help address the “power imbalances between digital platforms and media companies”.

“It can be viewed that there is a perception that marketers are self-serving because they engage in behaviour that is seen to ignore the consumers interests,” she said.

“To make sure this behaviour isn’t misguided, the best way for marketers to move forward is to prioritise trust with consumers.

“Data fragmentation is the reason companies struggle to deliver relevant, consistent and meaningful experiences to their customers. By breaking down silos and making data safe and easy to use, businesses will begin to serve customers interests ahead of their own.”


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