By Emmanuel Legrand
Following the reluctance from Facebook, Twitter and Google to negotiate a voluntary code of conduct between media companies and digital platforms, the Australian government has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to develop a mandatory code.
The decision was made necessary after failure from the different parties to negotiate in good faith remuneration of news media organisations for use of their content by digital platforms, advise news media in advance to any algorithm changes affecting content rankings, favour original source news content in search page results, and share data with media companies. The code was expected to be announced in November 2020.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who asked the ACCC to set up the mandatory code, said the parties couldn’t agree on “this key issue of payment for content.”
Level playing field
Taking notice of the failure to achieve a voluntary code through negotiations, the government will have the ACCC draft a mandatory code, which could use "the same elements as the proposed voluntary code, but would also include penalties and binding dispute resolution mechanisms for negotiations between the digital platforms and news businesses," according to The Guardian.
A draft code is due to be finalised by the end of July. “This will help to create a level playing field,” said Frydenberg. “Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way that media content is produced, distributed and consumed,” said Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. “Digital platforms need to do more to improve the transparency of their operations for news media providers as they have a significant impact on the capacity of news media organisations to build and maintain an audience and derive resources from the media content they produce.”
Disappointment from Facebook
Facebook Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton said: “We’re disappointed by the government’s announcement, especially as we’ve worked hard to meet their agreed deadline.” He added: “COVID-19 has impacted every business and industry across the country, including publishers, which is why we announced a new, global investment to support news organisations at a time when advertising revenue is declining.”
Facebook announced in March it had set up a $100 million fund for the news industry.