Parliament passes media bargaining code

Parliament passes media bargaining code

A media bargaining code, developed to bring a sense of balance to the relationship between news publishers and digital giants like Facebook and Google, has passed Parliament today.

It comes after Facebook flipped on its decision to block the sharing of news on its platform in Australia, with the social media behemoth having since struck deals with publishers to reimburse them for content.

The code, developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after three years of public consultation, provides a framework for good faith negotiations between the parties and a fair and balanced arbitration process to resolve outstanding disputes.

"Importantly, the code encourages parties to undertake commercial negotiations outside the Code and the Government is pleased to see progress by both Google and more recently Facebook in reaching commercial arrangements with Australian news media businesses," says Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

"The code is a significant microeconomic reform, one that has drawn the eyes of the world on the Australian parliament. Our commitment to legislating the code reflects the importance of a diverse and well-resourced news media sector to our democracy and the Australian people.

"The Government would like to thank all stakeholders for their contribution throughout this process, particularly the ACCC for its ground-breaking research which led to the drafting of the code."

The code will be reviewed by Treasury within one year of its commencement to ensure it is delivering outcomes for news media companies consistent with the government's intent.

It passed with amendments made after consultation with Facebook that will make it clear that:

  • a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
  • a digital platform will be notified of the Government's intention to designate prior to any final decision - noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
  • non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
  • final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

Since the Government's consultation with Facebook, the social media company has entered into a deal with Seven West Media (ASX: SWM), with the publisher to share content on the platform.

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