CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian laws that force Google and Facebook to pay for news are ready to take effect, although law architects say it will take time for digital giants to conclude media deals.
Parliament on Thursday passed the latest amendments to the so-called news media negotiation code, which were agreed upon by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday.
In return for the changes, Facebook has agreed to lift the ban on Australians accessing and sharing the news.
Rod Sims, the competition regulator who drafted the code, said he was pleased that the amended legislation would address the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gates of the internet.
“All signals are good,” Sims told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“The code is intended to address market power that is clearly in the possession of Google and Facebook. Google and Facebook need media, but they don’t need a special media company, and that meant media companies couldn’t make commercial deals, ”the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission added.
The rest of the laws were passed in Parliament before, so they can now be implemented.
Google has already closed the largest Australian news businesses in recent weeks, including News Corp. and Seven West Media.
Frydenberg said he is pleased to see Google and, more recently, Facebook making progress in concluding trade agreements with Australian news businesses.
But Country Press Australia, which represents 161 regional newspapers across the country, has expressed concern that small publications outside major cities could be left out.
Sims said he was not surprised that the platforms would first enter into an agreement with metropolitan businesses.
“I see no reason for anyone to doubt that all journalism will benefit,” Sims said.
“There, things take time. Google and Facebook don’t have unlimited resources to chat with everyone. I think it has a long way to go, ”he added.
Chris Moos, a lecturer at Oxford University’s School of Economics, said the latest changes meant Zuckerberg’s “small victory”.
Moos said the legislation is likely to result in small payments to most Australian news publishers. But Facebook could block Australian news again if talks break.
The legislation was intended to curb the oversized bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. Digital giants would not be able to abuse their position by making an offer to news companies to “take it or leave it” for their journalism. Instead, in the event of a standoff, the arbitration panel would make a binding decision on the winning bid.
Frydenberg and Facebook have confirmed that the two parties have agreed to amend the proposed legislation. The changes will notify digital platforms with a one-month notice period before they are officially designated under the code. This would give stakeholders more time to conclude mediation agreements before they are forced to enter into binding arbitration agreements.
Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of news partner relations, said in a statement that the deal will allow the company to choose which publishers to support, including small and local publishers.
According to Frydenberg, his department will review the code within a year to “ensure that it produces results that are in line with the government’s political intent”.