Australian Parliament Passes Media Reforms

On Thursday, the Australian Parliament passed a law to make Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc pay media companies for content on their platforms in reforms that countries such as Britain and Canada are looking to replicate. After vigorous negotiations in which Facebook blocked all news content in the 13th-largest economy, the vote makes Australia the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price tech giants pay domestic media if private talks fail.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement, “The code will ensure news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism.”  Facebook’s news ban, which also blacked out many nonprofit and government pages, including those of public health agencies promoting reliable information about COVID-19, would be lifted the following day, Frydenberg added in a radio interview, eight days after the measure took effect.

Representatives of both Google and Facebook, did not respond immediately.

If  negotiations between Big Tech and media companies fail, the new law sets the stage for a dispute-handling process largely untested in corporate Australia. Both sides claimed victory after Australia offered Facebook some concessions, including government discretion to release the tech giants from arbitration if they can prove a “significant contribution” to the domestic news industry.  The amended code also allows the tech companies a longer period to cut media deals before the state intervenes. It will be reviewed within a year of taking effect, the joint statement said, but gave no start date.