Australia Will Force Facebook, Google to Pay for News

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In a world first, the Australian government will require U.S. tech giants Facebook and Google to pay Australian media outlets for news content, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported Thursday.

Facebook and Google must pay news media to publish their content under a new mandatory code of conduct to be implemented by the end of this year. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the code would require designated platforms to “negotiate in good faith” payment agreements with Australian news companies under a royalty-style system.

“What we have sought to do [with the regulation] is to create a level playing field to ensure a fair go for Australian news media businesses. And that when they generate original content that they are fairly paid for it,” Frydenberg explained to reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.

“We want Google and Facebook to continue to provide [their] services to the Australian community … but we want it to be on our terms. We want it to be in accordance with our law, and we want it to be fair,” he said.

“It’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape. Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake,” he added.

Responding to the announcement on Thursday, Google Australia managing director Mel Silva issued a statement saying the company was “deeply disappointed” by the regulation and called the mandatory code an example of “the [Australian] government’s heavy-handed intervention.”

Media companies such as News Corp Australia — a division of Rupert Murdoch’s American mass media and publishing company News Corp — reportedly lobbied last year for the Australian government “to force … U.S. [tech] companies [including Facebook and Google] to the negotiating table amid a long decline in advertising revenue,” Reuters reported.

“While other countries are talking about the tech giants’ unfair and damaging behavior, the Australian government … (is) taking world-first action,” News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller said in a statement, according to the report.

Miller referred to an increasing call for greater regulation of tech giants such as Google and Facebook, which has gained momentum around the world in recent months. This week, U.S. lawmakers grilled the CEOs of America’s most powerful companies — Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple — in a congressional antitrust hearing to address their seemingly monopolistic power and alleged efforts to tilt the tech playing field in their favor.

“A 2019 study estimated about 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in Australia in the past ten years, as traditional media companies bled advertising revenue to Google and Facebook which paid nothing for news content,” Reuters reports.


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