The government will give Australia’s competition watchdog more power to keep the likes of Google and Meta accountable as part of the News Media Bargaining Code which redistributes wealth from big tech companies into local news outlets in an effort to address an apparent power imbalance in the media industry.
On Monday, the Commonwealth said it would enact all five recommendations from Treasury’s review of the code that was handed down 12 months ago.
Those recommendations include giving the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) more power to gather information about the agreements signed between tech companies and news organisations, as well as mandated reporting requirements to capture new tech platforms under the code.
Under the code, designated tech companies – namely, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Google – are required to enter into negotiations with Australian news outlets to compensate for the perceived value their news products bring to Google Search and Facebook.
Former ACCC Chair Rod Sims has estimated the total value of those agreements is around $200 million. Many of those initial agreements are reportedly coming to an end.
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones told Sky News that the government “[doesn’t] want to have to use the big stick” in the next round of agreements and expects big tech to come to the table.
“We want commercial negotiations to occur the way they did last time and for them to occur on the basis of commercial principles,” he said.
“And whilst the attention has been on both Google and Meta, they're not the only social media platforms using news content produced in Australia on their platforms as well.”
The ACCC will be empowered to look into whether other tech companies should fall under the code, with Assistant Treasurer mentioning the possibility of TikTok being designated, given the at-times controversial vertical video platform has surged in popularity since the code was first introduced.
It was a world-first piece of legislation that raised the issue of how embedded internationally domiciled mega-corporations are in our day-to-day lives.
At one point, Google threatened to shut off its Search product in response to the legislation, saying it offered “untenable risk” to the company’s local operations.
Meta went one step further by completely removing all news content for Australian users – a play it strutted out again in Canada after the North American country introduced similar laws to Australia’s.