In an ambitious move, Australia has finalized plans to make Google and Facebook pay publications and broadcasters for the content they provide. The new laws, which are first of their kind, are aimed at protecting and sustaining independent journalism in the country and are going to be presented before the parliament next week.
The world has witnessed a disruption in the advertising market with the rise of the search engine giant Google and the social media giant Facebook. The new platforms provided a bigger reach and more freedom for advertisers, which led to a decline in the number of advertisers working with publications and broadcasters.
The unwillingness of advertisers to work directly with the media outlets is a threat to independent journalism, as the media outlets’ primary revenue came from advertising, most of which now goes directly to the big tech firms. This has led to job losses and reduction in the quality of journalism.
Australia, the country in which more than four-fifths of online advertising spending goes to the two tech giants, is now stepping up to take matters into its own hands. If the laws are passed, Australia will become the first country to make the tech giants pay the media outlets for the content they publish on their platform.
According to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, under the new laws, the big tech firms must negotiate with local publishers and broadcasters to determine how much they pay for the content published on their platforms. If they fail to negotiate and strike a deal, a government appointed arbitrator will intervene to decided it for them.
The media outlets to be included in the list of publications and broadcasters the tech firms ‘must’ negotiate with includes, public broadcasters like the Australian Broadcasting Corp and specialist public broadcaster SBS, and other private sector outlets such as News Corp and Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd.
According to the final version of the law, Facebook’s Instagram and Google’s YouTube, however, will be exempted. In other words, they will not be required to pay the media outlets for the news content unlike their parent companies, Google and Facebook.
“This is a huge reform, this is a world first, and the world is watching what happens here in Australia. Our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world … and ultimately sustain our media landscape,” Australian Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg said in a statement.
More and more countries are now stepping up to regulate the big tech companies. In a similar move, the UK government has approved plans of creating a regulatory unit dedicated to big tech companies, which the govt says will also help sustain high-quality online journalism and news publishing in the UK.
The United States even went as far as to filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google for allegedly having a monopoly over the advertising market. There have also been reports that Facebook might face an antitrust lawsuit in America soon; though the specifics of the lawsuit, such as the motive and reason behind it, remains unknown.