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Tech giants ‘disappointed’ by government’s move to make them pay publishers

A Google spokeswoman said the company had been working constructively on the new code, but said it would adapt to the revised process.

“Since February, we have engaged with more than 25 Australian publishers to get their input on a voluntary code and worked to the timetable and process set out by the ACCC,” a Google spokeswoman said.

The Morrison government has announced digital giants will be forced to pay for content.

The Morrison government has announced digital giants will be forced to pay for content. Credit:Paul Rovere

“We have sought to work constructively with industry, the ACCC and government to develop a code of conduct, and we will continue to do so in the revised process set out by the government today.”

Media businesses and the Labor Party welcomed the government’s announcement on Monday, saying the news media had to receive adequate compensation for its content after years of revenue decline exacerbated by the economic wreckage of COVID-19.

Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland welcomed the government’s escalation but said it should have happened sooner given the urgent problems facing the news media.

“Australians need and deserve a strong, independent media landscape. Australian media companies must get a decent return for their investment in public interest journalism from digital platforms such as Google and Facebook,” she said.

Hugh Marks, the chief executive of Nine Entertainment Co, publisher of this masthead, said he expected the code to have a “material impact” on the company’s bottom line.

“This is all about sharing the burden between all those players in a more fair way,” he told 3AW on Monday. “How much that will mean in dollars for content creators, and it’s not just us … I would expect it to be reasonably material to our business.”

Mr Marks criticised the technology platforms for “dragging their feet” and thanked the government for taking action.

won’t take it lying down. But this has been going on for some years now, there is a recognition by them that they have to do something but they were just dragging their feet,” he said.

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News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said the decision to mandate the code was a “vital step” to securing Australian journalism’s future.

“The Australia media industry is at a tipping point and a mandatory code that leads to the platforms paying a fair – and very significant price – must be put in place urgently,” Mr Miller said.

“It is essential the mandatory code corrects the power imbalance between the tech platforms and local news media companies and sets rules that lead to the platforms finally paying for the news content they take and profit from.”

Seven West Media boss James Warburton said it was the industry’s right to be “fairly compensated”.

“This is a welcome move from the Australian government – not only to act, but to lead internationally on this critical issue,” Mr Warburton said.

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“The media industry is dependent on the value of its content being recognised by all users – foreign digital platforms in particular. In the past month our news content alone has reached millions of Australians – it’s only right when this is accessed via third-party platforms its creators are fairly compensated.”

Australia’s announcement is similar to initiatives in place that aim to level the playing field between digital giants and media companies. The European Union is giving publishers a right to demand fees for content and the French competition authority told Google earlier this month to negotiate “in good faith” with publishers.

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