News Corp Australia chief operating officer Damian Eales [feature image] has called on the government to ‘tame’ Google and Facebook, as COVID-19 changes the very nature of the media industry.
In an op-ed in The Australian today, Eales discusses the continued success of these tech giants against the landscape of a news media industry in decline.
“Local journalism can help underpin new growth and a firm financial future,” Eales said.
“That’s because it drives subscriptions — the funding model that publishers the world over are looking to as the replacement for advertising. This is a model that works if facilitated, not frustrated, by the likes of Facebook and Google.
“Yet the collapse of advertising revenue means local newspapers, the traditional delivery mechanism for local news, are in grave peril.
“The news media industry is in a race against time. COVID-19 will hasten the reshaping of news media that began with Big Tech.”
In the piece, Eales points to the likely closure of AAP and the decline of US news publisher McClatchy, pointing to the “imbalance in bargaining power ” between tech giants and news media that has contributed to the situation.
“In the era of COVID-19, the metaphoric viral threat Big Tech poses has become biological reality,” he said.
The comments come months after the government announced a “voluntary code” between digital platforms and news organisations as part of its response to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.
This code is to be finalised by November of this year.
It remains to be seen whether or not the COVID-19 outbreak will impact these talks between tech giants and news publishers.
Eales’s piece also comes as tech giants look to adapt their business model to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Once known for causing the spread of misinformation, Facebook has deployed a host of new features in recent weeks to promote trustworthy information on the site.
Facebook today announced a $US100-million investment to support journalists through its Facebook Journalism Project.
Locally, Facebook has been working with the Federal Government and Atlassian to develop a WhatsApp message service to disseminate information about the outbreak.
Are you on WhatsApp?
Message +61 400253787 or go to https://t.co/Xs1WqzA12f in your web browser to get #COVID19 information you can trust from the official Australian Government chatbot.
Whatsapp is available from the App Store or Google Play.
More info at https://t.co/QtylgXvCQi pic.twitter.com/ETXsxuucyp
— Australian Government (@ausgov) March 30, 2020
Launched on Sunday, the service attracted 291,000 people and sent 1.25 million messages within the first day.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this technology can play a role in spreading awareness on the pandemic, akin to a news service.
“[This technology] is going to help us as a country to get the messages and information we need to do the right thing to save lives and save livelihoods,”
In October last year, Facebook announced Facebook News, a new feature allowing users to find personalised and reputable news through Facebook.
It is understood Facebook is currently asking workers from other projects to volunteer on the News service in order to fast-track it during this pandemic.
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