Tech giants given platform for news talks

Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says Australian media companies are on the cusp of sealing deals with Google and Facebook to receive fair payment for news.

Mr Frydenberg’s comment came as he unveiled new laws – which he will take to federal parliament on Wednesday – which would force the two big digital platforms to negotiate with news media companies in putting a price on their content.

If the platforms and media companies can’t come to an agreement within three months, an independent panel of arbitrators will decide on what Facebook and Google should pay – based on separate bids from the platforms and the companies.

But the laws, which come with hefty penalties for bad faith bargaining, may not need to be triggered in some cases.

“Word is coming back to us is that there are deals that may be struck very soon between the parties,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“But, if the digital platforms and the news media businesses are unable to reach a commercial agreement, or unwilling to reach a commercial agreement, then a final offer arbitration model will take effect.”

Asked to comment on the code, a Google spokesman said: “We haven’t seen the revised code yet.”

Labor and the Greens are broadly supportive of the code but want to see the fine detail.

“We are prepared to support, in principle, efforts to ensure that the playing field is levelled between the tech platforms and the news media organisations,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said.

“We do want to see quality journalism properly paid for in this country.”

But he was critical of the government not providing a detailed briefing.

The ABC and SBS will be included in the code, as well as commercial news media organisations.

Asked about the Australian Associated Press newswire, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher told ABC TV: “They are certainly able to register.”

“They are a wholesale provider and so to the extent regional news businesses and others have their business position strengthened, that will put them in a better position to be acquiring content from AAP.”

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said her party would be holding the government to account over ensuring the ABC’s funding base was not eroded if it struck a deal with the platforms, and that AAP received ongoing support.


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