30 Australian Media Outlets Call on Facebook to Come to Bargaining Table
Australian small to medium sized digital publishers have held off publishing news content on their Facebook feeds for 24 hours to force the tech giant to come to the table and negotiate payment deals with them.
The 30 media outlets have replaced their news feed with a standardised message including the hashtag #waitingonzuck.
The protest comes a year after the Australian federal government passed the News Media Bargaining Code designed to compel Facebook and Google to pay news media outlets for content.
After a public, and at times, acrimonious, row over the impending law, both tech giants conceded and began proactively negotiating deals under their own programs, Google Showcase and Facebook News.
But the main partners have been larger news media organisations such as News Corp, Seven West Media, Nine, and The Guardian.
Smaller publishers claim to have been left out and that the current situation entrenches the larger media players.
“The purpose of the Media Bargaining Code was to support public interest journalism,” Karen Mahlab, founder of Pro Bona Australia said in a statement. “I don’t believe its purpose is being met when small to medium sized publications who represent a huge diversity of opinions and views are left out of the equation.”
Nick Shelton, founder of Broadsheet Media, said the unintended consequences of the code has been that independent publishers face “unprecedented competition” from larger news outlets.
“With millions and millions of dollars now being spent on talent, marketing, technology, and audience acquisition, independents are finding it impossible to compete,” he said.
A host of well-read online lifestyle and news outlets joined the protest including Women’s Agenda, Urban List, The Conversation, Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, Pro Bono Australia, Concrete Playground, Australian Jewish News, City Hub, Australian Chinese Daily, and Neos Kosmos.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the Treasury Department is currently reviewing the effectiveness of the Media Bargaining Code.
Australian digital authorities meanwhile continue to explore ways to regulate Big Tech, especially around issues like cyber bullying and how they manage “misinformation.”
“The propagation of falsehoods and conspiracies undermines public health efforts, impacts businesses, causes harm to democratic institutions, and in some cases, incites individuals to carry out acts of violence,” according to a statement from the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
By Daniel Y Teng
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