Thursday, 18 February 2021
Questions without Notice
News Media and Digital Platforms
My question is to Senator Hume, the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts. Can the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government's world-leading legislation is leading to commercial deals between news media businesses and digital platforms?
Honourable senators interjecting—
I thank Senator Antic for his question. The media bargaining code is a world-leading framework to address the fundamental bargaining power imbalance between Australian news businesses and the major digital platforms, Google and Facebook. The Morrison government has always maintained that the ideal outcome is for news media businesses and digital platforms to reach commercial deals. We welcome Google signing deals with Nine, with Seven West Media and with small publisher Junkee. Additionally, our legislation has led Google to sign a global deal with News Corp that will include not just Australian publications but also those in the US and the UK, a sign that our legislation is, in fact, world leading. But we know that without the threat of the code and its binding final-offer arbitration, there would be no deals at all.
In stark contrast to Google, Facebook has, disappointingly, chosen to block Australian news and information services on its site. Facebook will need to think very carefully about what this means for its reputation and its standing. It seems that Facebook is taking a decision to remove credible news sources from its platform, callously booting community and public health organisations off the platform in that process. Basically, it's saying to Australians, 'If you're looking for credible news then Facebook is not the place to look for it.' The government has consistently said that we wish Facebook and Google to remain operating in Australia. But we also expect them, at all times, to comply with laws that have been passed by the democratically elected parliament of Australia and, indeed, with bipartisan support for that legislation.
The code will support a diverse and sustainable Australian news media sector by requiring those digital platforms to pay fairly for the content that they use. Australian news media businesses can re-invest in the public interest journalism that is so vital to our economy and to our democracy. This is particularly important in regional Australia, where many papers have ceased printing or have closed altogether. Regional media businesses will be able to seek remuneration through a range of options, including: standard offers, where digital platforms can make standard offers to news media businesses, and this provides a way for smaller media businesses to avoid the often time consuming and costly bargaining and arbitration processes; or through collective bargaining and collectively engaging in arbitration, where the digital platform allows cost and resource sharing between smaller regional media businesses.
The news media bargaining code is not the only measure the Morrison government has put in place to support the future of public interest journalism in Australia. The government has steadfastly supported our media industry, including through the $50 million PING program to support public interest journalism delivered via commercial television, radio and newspapers in regional Australia. In addition to that, there is $5 million to the Australian Associated Press Limited Newswire under the PING program; $5 million from the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund to support 43 small metropolitan and regional publishers; and a 12-month waiver of spectrum tax for commercial television and radio broadcasters, which is worth $41 million to the sector. On top of that, there are reforms to the regulation of Australian content on free-to-air television to streamline and simplify drama, documentaries and children's content obligations.