Australia’s federal government is considering measures to enhance transparency in the distribution of news on tech platforms, aiming to level the playing field for public interest journalism in the digital age. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will conduct periodic reporting on how platforms, subject to the media bargaining code, distribute news content and assess whether there are significant power imbalances between tech giants and media organizations.
Under the proposed changes, new legislation would grant the ACCC information-gathering powers, allowing it to compel tech companies to provide details on sensitive commercial agreements made with media companies. This move is a response to one of the Treasury’s five recommendations in its November 2022 review of the media bargaining code.
The media bargaining code, which has already facilitated numerous agreements between tech giants and news publishers, allows the treasurer to designate a digital platform’s involvement, triggering stringent rules for negotiations with news publishers. While no digital platform has been designated so far, the threat of the code has prompted agreements between Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram) and Google with news publishers.
The federal government’s plan to legislate these changes aligns with the review’s findings, considering the media bargaining code a success. Google and Meta entered into multiple agreements with news publishers, leading to the creation of regional positions and investments in journalism by media outlets such as SBS and Nine Entertainment.
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones sees the review’s recommendations as sensible, emphasizing that the government is prepared to use the designate tool if tech companies do not engage in good-faith negotiations. Communications Minister Michelle Rowland believes these changes will contribute to the sustainability of public interest journalism in the digital age, ensuring fair remuneration for news media businesses through commercial deals with platforms.
The media bargaining code is set for a review in early 2025 after four years in operation.