Australian competition watchdog proposes possible Google and Facebook boycott by media


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is seeking views from stakeholders to inform its work on developing a new draft mandatory code that will address bargaining power imbalances between Australia’s news media businesses and Google and Facebook.

A concept paper by the watchdog sets out a range of issues for which the ACCC is seeking feedback and information; including what should be included in the draft bargaining code, how particular issues should be addressed, and how the code should operate. The bargaining tools listed in the concepts paper include collective bargaining, collective boycott, collective licensing for the local media to consider. The concept paper also lists questions around the type of news to be compensated and how best to determine its value.

This comes following the Australian government asking Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for news content in the country. According to several media outlets, this was part of a global effort to “rescue” local publishers by pushing tech giants to share advertising revenue. The Australian Government then had directed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms.

“We are keen to tap views on all the issues and ideas involved with this code. Given the tight timeframe we are seeking precise views on the content of the code and this concepts paper will facilitate this,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said. He added that the digital platforms inquiry highlighted the acute need to address the imbalance in bargaining position between news media and particular digital platforms, and that is what the code will do.

Meanwhile, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, media company Nine's chairman and former federal treasurer Peter Costello said a mandatory code of conduct on Facebook and Google should "force" the technology firms to pay AU$600 million a year into a fund distributed between Australian media companies. News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller too said he stands by Costello's request and that tech companies will have to pay for news content they are profitting from. 

Closer to home, in Malaysia, the Malaysian Newspaper Publishers Association (MNPA) took a page out of the Australian government’s book by sending a letter to the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) regarding the issue of Facebook and Google sharing their revenue with publishers in the country. In a letter seen by Marketing, MNPA’s chairman Mustapha Kamil Mohd Janor said for the longest time, a source of potential income rests with digital platforms such as Google and Facebook, which have been using publishers’ content and generating revenue. 

“Unfortunately, they have not been sharing this revenue with news publishers. Not here, not globally. But things are changing with a recent development in Australia,” Mustapha, who is also the CEO of New Straits Times Press, said. He referenced the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as an example, saying that it drew up a new mandatory code to compel such digital platforms to compensate news media companies for using their content. He said MNPA looks to MyCC to help the industry as it has the leverage that it does not.

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