Antitrust Exemption Would Help Publishers More Than Australian Plan 02/25/2021

Grant Boone
February 26, 2021

Australia has thus become first country in the world where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail.

Last week, the United States social media giant blocked Aussies from reading and sharing any news content or links from local publishers.

Australian lawmakers on Thursday passed the final amendments to a new media law that forces tech giants like Google and Facebook pay for news.

A statement Tuesday by Campbell Brown, Facebook's vice president for news partnerships, added that the deal allows the company to choose which publishers it will support, including small and local ones.

The move came a week after Facebook stopped Australian users from sharing or posting news links last Thursday.

Australia's News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code has officially passed through the Senate a day after the Government confirmed last-minute amendments made as part of the Morrison Government's negotiations with Facebook over the past week.

"We are now living in this world of a digital revolution, and unless you have this level of regulation in a workable code, then it's going to be very hard for sustainable public interest journalism". "Now Facebook managed to get some changes to the legislation, but basically they'll still be required to negotiate deals with publishers and that's the end goal".

The Government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days. For such licensing deals, Google has managed to pledge more than a billion dollars.

The Australian government appears to have capitulated in its battle with Facebook. At the same time, news publishers are providing free content to social media platforms and search engines.

Both Facebook and Google have each said they will invest around $1 billion each in news around the world over the next three years.

In an Unusual Move, Facebook Blocks News in Australia
Salvatore Babones, a Foreign Policy columnist and an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney . Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the decision to block emergency service sites was shocking.

Facebook - which is much less reliant on news content - had said being forced to pay for news was simply not worth it.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said it was important social media giants working in Australia complied with "the law of the land".

Both Google and Facebook areamong NPR's financial supporters.

Google and Facebook don't have unlimited resources to go around talking to everybody. Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGL) had opposed the initial version of the legislation, which would have allowed media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with them - and to enter binding arbitration if the parties couldn't reach an agreement.

Facebook has now agreed to restore all the pages which it restricted a few days ago after a favorable deal with the government.

"News Showcase is not now live in Canada, but we have already signed partnerships with Narcity Media and Village Media and are in active conversations with other Canadian publishers".

Some viewed the arrangement in Australia as a victory for Facebook, which demonstrated its value to publishers struggling to grow traffic. The legislation close to passage in Australia meant to tilt the field towards publishers by forcing Facebook and big Internet services to negotiate with them on financial terms for use of content.

Some of Facebook's peers in the tech industry are taking the other side of the debate, which may represent a challenge for the company in countries elsewhere.

Critics say the backroom dealing risked excluding smaller publishers.

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