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Monday, June 17, 2024

Facebook Turns News Back On as Oz Govt Amends Bargaining Code

Social media giant Facebook has begun reinstating news content in the feeds of its Australian users following a move by the country’s Federal Government to introduce further amendments to its News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

According to Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, “These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated.”

These amendments include:

  • a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
  • a digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
  • non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
  • final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

“Importantly, the amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms,” added Minister Fletcher.

“The Explanatory Memorandum will confirm that the Code only applies to the extent a digital platform is making covered news content available through those services.

“These amendments also add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the Code – a central feature of the framework that the Government is putting in place to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia.”

According to Nick Clegg, Facebook VP of Global Affairs (and former leader of UK political party, the Liberal Democrats), “After further discussion, the Australian government has agreed to changes that mean fair negotiations are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration.

“We understand the decision to stop the sharing of news in Australia appeared to come out of nowhere. Far from being out of the blue, Facebook indicated that it might be forced into this position six months ago. We’ve been in discussions with the Australian government for three years trying to explain why this proposed law, unamended, was unworkable.”

In response, a Nine Entertainment spokesperson said, “We are pleased the Government have found a compromise on the Digital Code legislation to move Facebook back into the negotiations with Australian media organisations. We look forward to constructive discussions resuming.”

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