Monday, 15 February 2021 07:24

News media code: Govt may yield to wishes of Google, Facebook

News media code: Govt may yield to wishes of Google, Facebook Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

The Federal Government is likely to give Google and Facebook a major concession before it puts its news media code legislation up for a vote, with a clause that says the two companies do not have to cut deals with publishers under the law if they can convince them to sign up to their news products.

The Nine Entertainment newspapers reported on Monday that the government was looking at making this concession, with the outcome being that the two services that were to be designated for inclusion by name — Google Search and Facebook NewsFeed — would not be specified in the law.

The law, in its current form, does not include Instagram and YouTube. The Nine report said Seven News, one of the three commercial free-to-air TV channels in Australia, was expected to announced a deal with Google soon.

Google launched something called News Showcase in October, and introduced it in Australia on 5 February, a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a video chat with Alphabet and Google chief Sundar Pichai.

Facebook has a service called Facebook News. However, the amounts that companies would be paid if they cut deals on the terms of these services are likely to be less than what they would be paid under the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

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.

But if the government does grant the two digital platforms this concession, then that would raise questions over the need for having a law at all.

Last week, the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which was holding consultations on the law, recommended to Parliament that it be passed without any changes.

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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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