The Australian Federal Government will commence a review into the operation of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code to be conducted by Treasury in consultation with relevant agencies. The Code came into effect on 3 March 2021 and its governing legislation requires it to be reviewed within 12 months of operation.
According to Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, “The Code represents a world-first that was introduced by the Government to address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms. The Code is intended to ensure that digital platforms fairly remunerate news businesses for the content they generate, thereby helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.”
A key focus for the review will be assessing the extent to which commercial agreements between the digital platforms and Australian news businesses have contributed to this objective.
“The Morrison Government has been pleased to see progress by both Google and Facebook in reaching commercial agreements with Australian news media businesses,” added Minister Fletcher. “Since February 2021 Google and Facebook have, between them, reportedly entered into around 30 commercial agreements.
“The Morrison Government notes that some news organisations, including smaller and independent publishers, have expressed concerns they have been unable to reach a commercial deal. We urge the digital platforms to continue negotiating in good faith to ensure that the review is able to consider the full extent of progress made under the Code.”
The Government has issued Terms of Reference to guide the Review. Treasury will issue a short consultation paper inviting submissions from news businesses (including small and regional businesses), digital platforms and other interested parties.
Treasury will finalise a report to the Treasurer and the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts by the end of September 2022.
Meanwhile, industry body Commercial Radio Australia said the Federal Government’s review into the operation of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code would be an opportunity to examine whether stronger actions are required to urge Google and Facebook to strike content deals with radio broadcasters.
Chief executive officer Joan Warner said the digital giants had yet to reach commercial agreements with the majority of commercial radio stations despite the ACCC granting CRA authorisation last October to collectively bargain over payment for radio content featured on those platforms.
“We are continuing to seek commercial outcomes but if Google and Facebook are unwilling to negotiate fair compensation, then stronger actions and designation may be required,” Ms Warner said. “We remain concerned that the current status quo will leave smaller media organisations such as radio stations at a competitive disadvantage.
“Commercial radio operates newsrooms across the country and generates a substantial amount of local news and information consumed by Australians on digital platforms.”