Technology

Tech giants Google, Facebook forced to pay up for news content

Tech giants Google, Facebook forced to pay up for news content

Digital giants Google and Facebook will be forced to pay for news content generated by the Australian media in a lifeline for the struggling industry.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher will today announce a mandatory code on digital platforms to be finalised by July, bringing forward a November deadline.

The decision to fast track the code follows a collapse in advertising revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to many newsrooms, especially in regional areas, closing or scaling back their operations.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last December handed down its report following an inquiry into Facebook, Google and the impact other internet giants are having on the media industry.

The ACCC was negotiating with big tech and media companies on a voluntary code of conduct that would have been made mandatory in November if no agreement was made before then.

The new code will include enforcement, penalties and ways to deal with disagreements between the global platforms and local media companies.

“The groundbreaking report prepared by the ACCC into digital platforms was world-leading and now paves the way for a mandatory code of conduct requiring payment for content,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“This will help to create a level playing field.”

Prices for content or the nature of commercial agreements would need to be negotiated but remedies would be put in place to force tech companies to accede.

Facebook and Google have a stranglehold over the digital advertising market and benefit greatly from the content of news publishers on their platforms, social media, search queries and digital video.

News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said Google and Facebook had built trillion-dollar businesses by using other people’s content and refusing to pay for it.

“The decisive move by the government to go directly to a mandatory code of conduct between the international tech giants and Australian news media companies is a vital step that can help secure the future of Australian journalism,” he told News Corp.

Nine chief executive Hugh Marks also welcomed the move.

News Corp and Nine have cited the impact of digital platforms on their bottom lines as part of their move to close down AAP, the national newswire.