Tuesday, 03 December 2019 10:30

Govt response to digital platforms inquiry report likely to be delayed Featured

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Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had promised a response to the inquiry report by the end of the year. Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had promised a response to the inquiry report by the end of the year. Courtesy YouTube

The Federal Government's response to the digital platforms inquiry report submitted to it by the competition watchdog in June is likely to be known only next year, despite promises at the time the report was released that a response would be forthcoming before the end of 2019.

The Australian reported that a last-minute lobbying effort by Facebook, Google and Twitter was trying to soften the government's response.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission set out 23 recommendations in its report, though none of them was in any way a radical reform.

In a joint statement, four Labor MPs said the lack of any statement by the government on the report so far, showed " this third-term Liberal Government has no plan for our country". The four who made the statement were shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers and shadow innovation minister Clare O'Neil.

"This government talks a big game about the dominance of digital platforms, but instead of delivering long-overdue reforms to address information and regulatory asymmetry, they are sitting on their hands," the statement added.

Among the reforms suggested were:

  • "Requiring designated digital platforms to each provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority with codes to address the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between these platforms and news media businesses and recognise the need for value sharing and monetisation of content;
  • "Addressing the regulatory imbalance that exists between news media businesses and digital platforms, by harmonising the media regulatory framework;
  • "Targeted grants to support local journalism of about AU$50 million a year;
  • "Introducing measures to encourage philanthropic funding of public interest journalism in Australia;
  • "ACMA monitoring the digital platforms’ efforts to identify reliable and trustworthy news;
  • "Requiring the digital platforms to draft and implement an industry code for handling complaints about deliberately misleading and harmful news stories; and
  • "Introducing a mandatory take-down ACMA code to assist copyright enforcement on digital platforms."

On 26 July, the day the report was released publicly, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: "The precise form of the reforms and a detailed government response to the report’s recommendations will be informed by a public consultation process, led by Treasury and involving the Department of Communications and the Arts as well as the Attorney-General’s Department.

"The consultation process will run for 12 weeks and will enable all interested stakeholders to provide feedback on the report and its implementation.

"Following these consultations, the government intends to finalise its response to the report by the end of the year."

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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