Media Boss Warns Meta’s News Exit Could Have “Severe” Effects On Regional Media

Media Boss Warns Meta’s News Exit Could Have “Severe” Effects On Regional Media

Antony Catalano, executive chair of Australian Community Media, has warned of potentially disastrous consequences for the country’s regional media industry after Meta pulled out of its News Media Bargaining Code deals.

Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, Catalano said that there would “absolutely” be job losses across his company, which owns The Canberra Times and The Newcastle Herald, among other titles, if no alternative funding is found.

“If people are surprised now, I don’t think they ought to be. They should have always expected this day to come because it’s just the nature of who we’re dealing with,” Catalano said.

Last week, Meta announced that it would be pulling out of its deals with publishers by removing its News tab on Facebook. Meta had deals with large publishers such as the ABC and News Corp and independent publishers including Private Media, Schwartz Media and Junkee Media.

In a blog post, Meta said the move is part of “an ongoing effort to better align our investments to our products and services people value the most” and follows the axing of the Facebook News tabs in the UK, France and Germany last year.

The blog post added: “While we’ll be deprecating Facebook News in these countries, this announcement does not impact the terms under our existing Facebook News agreements with publishers in Australia, France and Germany. These deals have already expired in the US and the UK.

“Additionally, to ensure that we continue to invest in products and services that drive user engagement, we will not enter into new commercial deals for traditional news content in these countries and will not offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers in the future.”

Meta is also purported to be on the hook for fines of up to $1.5 billion by pulling out of its voluntary deals.

“Meta’s decision to turn its back on negotiations to renew existing deals will likely contravene the code – and competition law – and could result in enormous ­financial penalties,” wrote James Madden, media editor of The Australian.

Depending on which sections of the code have been contravened, Meta could be fined 30 per cent of Facebook Australia’s ­“adjusted turnover during the breach period”.

Given that Meta recorded advertising revenues in Australia of between $4.7 billion and $5.1 billion across Facebook and Instagram in FY21-22, if it is found to have breached every portion of the code and competition laws, it could face total fines of $1.5 billion.

“Facebook Australia’s audited financial statements for calendar year 2022 put “gross amounts from advertisers” at $1.256bn, although, unlike the ACCC’s 2023 report, that figure doesn’t include Instagram revenue. If the Facebook Australia figure is correct, Meta’s fine could still be $376m a year – which is more than the total sum it pays Australian news publishers under the terms of the existing deals,” added Madden.

Meta declined to comment on the story when contacted by B&T.

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