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  • Tech giants Facebook and Google will need to start paying to publish content from Australian news outlets under a new code of conduct highlighted by the consumer watchdog today
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a draft version of the new code today, which will be open for public consultation until late-August
  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the new code is designed to address the power imbalance between tech giants and traditional media
  • The Treasurer explained that because platforms like Google and Facebook have become unavoidable trading partners for online news entities, they have too much bargaining power
  • ACCC Chair, Rod Sims said the code is designed in such a way that it gives news media more bargaining power without limiting their access to the massive platforms

Tech giants Facebook and Google will need to start paying to publish content from Australian news outlets under a new code of conduct highlighted by the consumer watchdog today.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a draft of the code today, which will be open to four weeks of public consultation before being finalised at the end of August.

The code is aimed at giving Australian traditional news media more bargaining power with the tech giants.

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg explained today that platforms like Google and Facebook have become unavoidable trading partners for Australian news outlets striving to reach online audiences. As such, there is a major power imbalance between the tech giants and news media.

"Under the proposed bargaining arrangements, commercial media organisations will be able to enter into negotiations with relevant digital platforms to determine an appropriate payment for news content," the Treasurer said in a media statement.

As it stands under the draft code, the negotiation period for payments will last three months, after which point there will be a "final offer" arbitration process where an independent arbitrator will choose which of the two entities' offers it deems best.

The new code of conduct is the result of the Morrison Government's request that the ACCC look into the power imbalances between big tech and news media and formulate a solution. This request was a response to the ACCC's Digital Platforms Inquiry, which was designed to examine the impact social media and digital search engines have on competition in media.

The final report was released in July 2019.

ACCC Chair Rod Sims said the organisation believes the draft code achieves the best of both worlds in regards to evening out bargaining power while not limiting access to the massive tech platforms.

"In developing our draft code, we observed and learned from the approaches of regulators and policymakers, internationally, that have sought to secure payment for news," Rod said.

"We wanted a model that would address this bargaining power imbalance and result in fair payment for content, which avoided unproductive and drawn-out negotiations, and wouldn’t reduce the availability of Australian news on Google and Facebook," he said.

The new code is designed to be reviewed after one year. This means if it doesn't work as intended, it can be changed and moulded depending on feedback.

"The government is delivering a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose and better protects and informs Australian consumers, addresses bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and media companies, and ensures privacy settings remain appropriate in the digital age," Treasurer Frydenberg said.

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