Tuesday, 16 February 2021 07:22

Frydenberg expects more media deals before code becomes law

Frydenberg expects more media deals before code becomes law Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said he expects to see "some significant commercial deals" between Australian news publishers and digital platforms before the government votes on its news media code which is currently before Parliament.

Frydenberg made the comments in an interview given to Nine's The Today Show on Monday, telling presenter Karl Stefanovic: "We have made real progress, I think in the last 48 to 72 hours, and I think we are going to see some significant commercial deals, which could be of real benefit to the domestic media landscape and see journalists rewarded financially for generating original content, as it should be, and this is a world-leading reform.

"No other country has stepped in like we have. It has been a difficult process. It is still ongoing, so let's not get ahead of ourselves. But the discussions to date have been very promising indeed."

On Monday, Seven West Media announced it had signed a deal to be part of Google's News Showcase, an initiative launched in Australia on 5 February, a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke to Alphabet and Google boss Sundar Pichai.

Before it signed up Seven, Google secured deals with Crikey, The Saturday Paper and Australian Community Media, publisher of The Canberra Times.

Morrison's exchange with Pichai came in the wake of Google's managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Melanie Silva, threatening that the search company would leave Australia.

The only major holdouts from the News Showcase are Nine Entertainment — which owns The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review among others — and publications owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited.

The news media code, officially known as News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, has been devised as a means of forcing Google and Facebook to negotiate with news publishers and reach agreements on how much they should pay for using Australian news content.

But if publishers reach separate deals with the two digital platforms, the government is understood to have agreed to merely have the legislation passed without naming either Google Search or Facebook NewsFeed in the text of the law as was originally intended.

The amounts that companies would be paid if they cut deals on the terms offered by the two digital behemoths are likely to be less than what they would be paid under the law.

The government has already given ground on three major aspects of the code, among them (1) the time interval for informing publishers about algorithm changes (reduced from 28 days to 14); (2) that digital platforms can factor in the value of the service they provide to a news organisation in monetary terms before the quantum of payment is decided; and (3) that the law would only apply to Google Search and Facebook's NewsFeed. YouTube and Instagram are not covered.

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Sam Varghese

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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