QUICK RECAP: For the last twenty years, several global news media agencies have complained about the biggest digital giants getting richer at their efforts. They simply sell advertisements linked to their reports and don’t even share the revenue. Lately, Australia has joined France and other governments to push tech giants – Google & Facebook to pay for the content produced by these media outlets. This would eventually help the news industry in terms of better investment, which is increasingly cutting down the essential coverage due to revenue shrinks.
What’s Up With Google and Facebook In Australia?
For those living in Australia, the major exposure to news and other world events is through Facebook. But, for them, 17th February, was a day that they never dreamt of.
Surprised! Want to know what happened?
It wasn’t just a slow news day – – but it was no news day. The tech giant not only blocked the usage of platforms for users living in Australia but also banned them from posting any kind of news from Australian media & prevented sharing the news globally.
February 17th Dark Day In the History of Australia Facebook Banned its own Facebook Page.
Facebook has banned Facebook’s own Facebook page pic.twitter.com/bvZGRaO77H
— Andrew Brown (@AndrewBrownAU) February 17, 2021
Why Only Facebook Took This Step?
In response to the Australian News Media Bargaining Code, which compels social media giants like Facebook and Google to pay to the news channels, local media houses & institutions for content that appear on their platforms, this was done.
Is Google Ok With All This?
Google’s stand on this is unclear as one hand, the company opposes the law in principle (by experimenting & removing certain new sites from Australian search results), at the same time the company manages to reach a deal.
In addition to this, Google expressed, they are ready to pay for the content on certain conditions, but no major news agency has agreed to their terms. With that said, the company added it would withdraw its main search engine from Australia if the law goes ahead.
Impact of Facebook’s Stand on Australia
What Facebook Has To Say?
Facebook said it has sent over billions of clicks a year to Australian news websites through articles appearing on users’ search feed.
Will All This Change Anything?
Certainly not, because after much back and forth, Australia’s Prime Minister ‘Scott Morrison’ indicated his willingness to press ahead with the legislation, and the whole affair came to a standstill when Australia passed the legislation last month.
With the law being implemented, now tech giants will have to pay some publishers for news content. Though the negotiated deal also favors Facebook & Google by helping them to decide which commercial deals will be pursued.
How Does It Affect the Public?
Although the new rules & laws would apply in Australia, regulators elsewhere are closely observing the dispute as they might want the same.
Whether the system works well or not, if it does, how it can be applied to other countries, is a burning question.
Hence, to understand this from the perspective of people residing in Australia, we have a few questions for you.
- If the dispute would have continued, would people based in Australia be banned from viewing posts or links associated with sites from Australia or overseas?
- Will users be greeted with the pop-up, explaining why they are experiencing this situation?
- Will the Government pages stay blocked?
- If you are based out of Australia, will you be able to post links to Australian news sites?
- Will the news agreement based on negotiation between tech giants and news agencies turn out into more coverage for readers & viewers?
What’s My Stand?
- Facebook’s decision to block Australian sites was not only aggressive, but also blunt. People were suddenly blocked from receiving warnings from weather services, public health institutions, and so on. It made the platform vulnerable for the audience. That eight-day ban captured global attention!
- In the meantime, the occasional access to platforms could suffer. News pages might work or not & just be displayed with error messages for some users and strings of posts be disappearing for others.
Must-Read: How To Ensure Your Privacy Is Protected On Facebook?
Why Should Tech Giants Pay?
Traditional media organizations, particularly local news agencies are under the threat of extinction. And tech giants are certainly destroying journalism needed to sustain a well-functioning, strong and diverse media ecosystem. Bypassing this law the critical ad revenue that is not being shared with the publishers, will be done.
Let’s understand in detail why Facebook & Google must pay for content?
- Imagine waking up to tweets, posts & videos posted by just anyone, who has a reputation to protect or being responsible for adhering to laws. News agencies are the only source if you need credible and fact-checked news pieces, which are self-evident.
- Producing credible news is certainly expensive. More journalists need to be hired and trained. A great newsgathering infrastructure should be implemented, which eventually needs more money.
- Companies like Facebook and Google dominate the major amount of traffic for news and other stuff. Over eighty percent of the traffic to news websites is carried by Google & Facebook. Hence, they easily take away a huge share of advertising revenue, on the efforts of news agencies & institutions.
Does this Mean News Agencies Are Going to be Extinct?
Well, it will be too soon to answer that.
But, publishers are getting squeezed day by day, and the institutions who have built a brand over decades are confronting an unsustainable business model. Due to this, eventually, the distribution of credible news comes under threat.
But the good news is the cost of producing credible news is not coming down.
Facebook has chosen the path of dramatic escalation by signing preliminary agreements with three news publishers in the country: Solstice Media, Schwartz Media, and Private Media. Though the complete agreement is not yet disclosed and it would take over 60 days, according to the recent announcements by Facebook.
On the other side, Google has also signed several licensing agreements with local media houses, with at least two deals worth $47 Million, a year, according to reports.
What Is Australia’s New Media Bargaining Code?
News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code is a dedicated law developed to have big Internet companies like Facebook & Google operating in Australia pay local media houses and publishers for the content made available or linked on their platforms. The new code will ensure that media houses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate.
Is This A Way To Control Misinformation or Media Houses Just Want A Share in Revenue Earned by Tech Giants?
Money is always a driving force and to some extent, the new code law is a way to help news agencies earn it. But this doesn’t mean, it is the only reason. Journalism is in a state of flux.
Though digital platforms have opened the doors for news and events to reach globally, misinformation, popularly known as ‘Fake News’ is also accelerated and is affecting day-to-day life.
Unsurprisingly, Social Media Platforms are the biggest source of misinformation and disinformation. But does the Absence of News worsen the situation?
With the proposed law, coming into effect media houses will be able to get a share of revenue and people will also get credible information.
Collaborating with authentic news agencies, both Facebook & Google along with news agencies will be benefited, and users will get what they are looking for – genuine & credible news pieces. As a result, fake news, floated by social users will also be controlled.
If Facebook And Google Bans Australia Will There Be Fact-Based News from The Region?
Facebook said that its ‘fact-checking partnership’ with news institutions like AAP & AFB will continue and it will still provide authentic and credible news pieces.
Must-Read: New Changes In Facebook To A Better Privacy And Data!
Impact On Google And Facebook’s Revenue After Banning Australia
Google already warned Australia that it might leave because of the ‘unworkable’ nature of the bargaining code. But at the same time, the company is rushing to complete the deals with Australian publishers in an attempt to blunt the application of the new Australian laws.
- The law demands that tech firms need to give media houses ‘notices’ whenever they make changes in their search algorithms – as in what order their content will be appearing.
- The digital giants have to share their use of consumer data extracted through the news sites on their platforms.
- According to Australian laws, “Breaches of the code, such as failure to negotiate in good faith, would be punishable by a fine of A$10 million (US$7.4 million) or the equivalent of 10 percent of annual turnover in Australia.”
- The world is watching with considerable eagerness. Since Australia is on the verge of success in taming the big tech, other countries are trying to imitate Australia. Some European countries have already acted and Internet giants are already in talks with multiple governments & local publishers.
- The Indian Newspaper Society has recently asked Google to compensate for the content they circulate online through their publishers.
Will the New Code Law, Make Other Countries Consider The Imposition of Restrictions?
James Meese, who teaches media policy and law at RMIT University in Melbourne, expressed: “Other governments are already attempting to regulate. China is the obvious example, but the UK and the EU have also recently released substantive reforms that promise to change how social media is regulated. The innovation from Australia is the focus on competition, which could be a novel way of approaching the problem.”
Does Google Offer Any Solution Against Code Laws?
Google says, ‘we are willing to pay to support journalism, but how we do that matters. Rather than needing the payment for linking to websites, we have created a dedicated model where Google could pay Australia’s news agencies, under the new code through Google’s News Showcase.’
Google’s News Showcase Program is designed, keeping the new laws in mind, where it will pay publishers (with $1 Billion committed initially) to license their content according to the new format in Google News. The program (with new amendments) has already been launched in countries like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Canada, France, U.K., and more.
While this isn’t exactly the solution news publishers were looking for, it does seem like a shaky step in the right direction. The tech giant is also planning on working with product’s established publishers to provide the general public with paywalled articles. Certainly, a noble effort, but at the end of the day, not everyone might be happy.
Is there something we are missing out on? Well, it is Facebook’s Multilayer Deal With News Corp.
At the time of writing, Facebook has agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for its Journalism content in Australia. The multilayer deal announced includes news pieces from major media outlets like The Australian, Daily Telegraph in New South Wales, the Herald Sun in Victoria, the Courier-Mail in Queensland, and popular metropolitan, regional, and community publications.
The deal means Facebook users will gain access to news articles behind a paywall from News Corp’s publications. The agreement certainly resolves a dispute in the country between digital giants and publisher’s overcompensation for news articles.
“We’re glad to have this deal in place and look forward to bringing Facebook News to Australia,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news partnerships, said in a statement.
Australia VS Google And Facebook, Who Will Be Benefitted?
As the new law is passed, the question is: Who will be benefited?
Undoubtedly, Google & Facebook gains a lot from the content produced by these news agencies. But, there’s no second thought that these institutions also gain benefits from the billions of hits that Facebook & Google brings. Hence, they both need each other. Although, the need is probably higher on the side of News & Media Houses since there are tons of other things than news for Google and Facebook.
As long as the matter is concerned, whether journalism is dying because of the need for a financially viable business model. What if big tech is all set to pay for content, would the media companies will invest in hiring more journalists? Or maybe invest in other businesses?
Producing credible news demands money and a lot of effort. Being from a Journalism background, I truly understand how quintessential it is for a good journalist to cater to the background research. The entire affair is expensive and by letting advertising migrate to the Internet and giving content for free to platforms like Facebook & Google – media companies have surely devalued their product.
To be honest, for Facebook news isn’t a very critical aspect. Only 4-5% of such content is available on the platform, so there might be little incentive for them to pay to publishers. On the other hand, for Google, the news is highly crucial to improve their overall search results. That’s why it’s clear why Google is more willing to negotiate with Australia’s news agencies than Facebook.
What are your thoughts on the entire scenario? Who will gain major benefits from the recent News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code? Share your opinions in the comments section below!
|Read Next Story: Technology: A Boon Or Bane In US Elections|