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Australia passes media law forcing tech giants Facebook and Google to pay news publishers

Digital platforms including Facebook and Google will now have to pay Australian news publishers, under a new law, the world’s first, passed by Australia on Feb. 25. 

 Under the News Media Bargaining Code, tech firms are obligated to pay news companies if they have an annual income exceeding AU$150,000 (HK$905,585), a move seen to mostly benefit Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns most of Australia’s major newspapers.  

If tech companies do not pay, then they will be fined  AU$10 million (HK$60.1 million) or 10% of the annual turnover of the digital platform. 

The code also allows news companies to negotiate payments with tech firms over the next three months. If they do not reach an agreement by that time, arbitrators from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a government statutory body, would make the final decision on the payment.

"For every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook, and $19 goes to other participants," said Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer of the Australian government at a press conference. 

Facebook suspended hundreds of pages from Australian news outlets, personal blogs and government departments on Feb. 18 following the amendment proposal. 

The social media giant said in a statement in August last year that it will stop people from sharing local and international news if the law is passed.

 “Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” the statement said.

 The platform also said in a statement that the code “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship” between its platform and publishers who use it to share news. 

 Facebook accepted the code after last-minute changes to the bill, which included a three-month negotiation period with an additional two months for mediation between news publishers and the platform before the final decision is made, according to a statement by Mr. Frydenberg.

 Google has struck deals with NewsCorp, which will enable the company to pay for news outlets worldwide, including the Wall Street Journal and The Australian. The deal involves NewsCorp receiving “significant payments” through Google’s News Showcase product. 

Google had earlier objected to the code. 

"If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia," said Mel Silva, managing director of Google in Australia and New Zealand, at a senate economics committee on Jan 22.

Google’s News Showcase was launched in 2020, with the aim of paying publishers to curate news content for its users. The search giant has invested AU$1.3 billion (HK$7.9 billion) over three years across a dozen countries including the UK, US and Argentina among others, covering more than 450 publications.

The service was recently launched in Australia on Feb 4.

The move comes after the Australia’s government did a preliminary report on the market share of Facebook and Google.

The report found that 94% of searches were through Google, Facebook and Instagram, which are owned by Facebook and accounts for 46% of the advertising revenue in Australia. The report also added that no other website or application has a market share of more than five percent.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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