Free TV Australia has said that threats from Facebook to prevent their Australian users from accessing or sharing news content is the clearest demonstration yet of why the ACCC Mandatory Code is so important.
Free TV Australia CEO, Bridget Fair said: “What we’re seeing today is a global monopoly that will say and do anything to avoid making a fair payment for news content. Australian Facebook users are being held to ransom as a tactic to intimidate the Australian Government into backing down on this issue.
“This type of bullying behaviour is exactly the reason that the ACCC concluded that the Mandatory Code was the only reasonable way to even up the bargaining power between Facebook, Google and Australian News Media Businesses.
“Facebook is already awash with fake news and conspiracy theories. Removing trusted Australian news from their platform will only serve to allow misinformation to be further spread unchecked and unchallenged. Unfortunately Australian consumers will be the collateral damage in Facebook’s campaign to hold onto monopoly profits.
“The draft Code does no more than set an appropriate framework to allow fair negotiations between Australian News Media Businesses and digital platforms that would recognise the value of news content to those platforms.
“It is reactions like this that show how important it is that the Government moves forward with the Code and in particular that it includes the ACCC’s recommended non-discrimination provisions which are designed to protect Australians from these kind of punitive and oppressive responses from giant digital monopolies.
“We urge the Government to move to introduce the laws into Parliament as quickly as possible”, Ms Fair said.
In a statement, ACCC Chair Rod Sims said, “Facebook’s threat to prevent any sharing of news on its services in Australia is ill-timed and misconceived.
“The draft media bargaining code aims to ensure Australian news businesses, including independent, community and regional media, can get a seat at the table for fair negotiations with Facebook and Google.
“Facebook already pays some media for news content. The code simply aims to bring fairness and transparency to Facebook and Google’s relationships with Australian news media businesses.
“We note that according to the University of Canberra’s 2020 Digital News Report, 39% of Australians use Facebook for general news, and 49% use Facebook for news about COVID-19.
“As the ACCC and the Government work to finalise the draft legislation, we hope all parties will engage in constructive discussions.”