Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
Sale ends in
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
save over $140
// //

The architect of Australia’s laws forcing Google and Facebook to pay media companies for content claimed victory on Wednesday, though critics said last-minute changes to appease Facebook favoured Big Tech over smaller news outlets.

After tense negotiations prompted Facebook to cut off news in the country last week, Australia offered a host of technical concessions and the social media giant said it would restore news as the revamped bill looked set to become law this week.

While Facebook said its concerns had been met and opposition lawmakers warned that smaller media players may be overlooked, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims said the bargaining power imbalance had been righted.

Story continues below advertisement

“The changes the government’s done are things that either don’t matter much or are just to clarify things that, at least in Facebook’s mind, were unclear,” Sims, who helped draft the original laws, told Reuters.

“Whatever they say, they need news. It keeps people on their platform longer. They make more money,” he said.

The endorsement from Australia’s top antitrust regulator will bolster the government’s argument that its hard line approach worked and may offer encouragement to countries such as Canada and Britain which have said they plan similar laws.

Other countries have introduced legislation forcing so-called Big Tech players to negotiate with media companies for licensing fees for links that draw traffic, and advertising revenue, to their platforms.

However, Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator effectively sets the rates tech giants will have to pay if negotiations with media companies fail.

The last-minute changes include an extra two-month mediation period between any failed talks and state intervention and give the government discretion to release Facebook from the process if it proves it has made a “significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry.”

Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company had “erred on the side of over-enforcement” with its news blackout – which inadvertently blocked some government pages – because it needed to act quickly before the new legislation was introduced.

Story continues below advertisement

The agreed changes “mean fair negotiations (with publishers) are encouraged without the looming threat of heavy-handed and unpredictable arbitration,” he wrote in a blogpost he internet needs new rules that work for everyone, not just for big media corporations. B, adding: “The internet needs new rules that work for everyone, not just for big media corporations.”

SMALL MEDIA, BIG CONCERNS

While the Australian Senate backed the changes before sending the amended bill back to the lower house, where it was expected to pass soon, opposition lawmakers and smaller media firms warned that giving the government power to spare tech giants its involvement could leave niche outlets without compensation.

“The big (media) players could successfully negotiate with Facebook or Google. The minister then doesn’t designate them, and all the little players miss out,” independent senator Rex Patrick, who opposed the amended legislation, told Reuters.

Lee O’Connor, owner and editor of regional newspaper The Coonamble Times, said the changes appeared to weaken safeguards for smaller players.

“It’s the vagueness of the language that’s the main concern, and the minister’s discretion is part of that,” O’Connor said.

Antitrust regulator Sims dismissed the concerns.

Story continues below advertisement

“If Google and Facebook don’t do deals with even the smaller players, my view is they’ll get designated (as subject to intervention),” he said.

If Google and Facebook did deals with all Australia’s major outlets, which account for up to 90 per cent of the country’s media content, “why the hell would they muck it all up and not do the other 10 per cent? It makes no sense,” Sims said.

DEAL DELUGE

After threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws, Alphabet’s Google instead struck deals with most large Australian publishers, including a global arrangement with News Corp.

Television broadcaster and newspaper publisher Seven West Media became the first media company to announce a Facebook deal, saying late on Tuesday it had signed a letter of intent to reach a content supply agreement within 60 days.

Rival Nine Entertainment Co said on Wednesday it was now in talks with Facebook.

Clegg said Facebook had invested $600-million since 2018 to support the news industry, and planned at least $1-billion more over the next three years.

Story continues below advertisement

“Facebook is more than willing to partner with news publishers. We absolutely recognize quality journalism is at the heart of how open societies function,” he said.

He said Facebook was in active negotiations with publishers in France and Germany after agreeing deals for content in Britain and the United States.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies