CANBERRA, AAP – Major media players along with Google and Facebook are set to appear before a parliamentary inquiry delving into Australia’s proposed bargaining code.
The tech giants face $10 million fines if they don’t follow the rules of the proposed code, designed to ensure they pay for news.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg introduced the underpinning bill to parliament in December, praising the “world-leading” code.
Representatives from Google will appear at the hearing on Friday, to argue the bill is unworkable.
One of its main concerns is that it would have to pay all registered news businesses for having results through the platform’s search engine.
Google doesn’t want this and is instead offering to have its “news showcase” feature included, which allows users to read some stories that are otherwise behind paywalls.
The government says it would prefer Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals with news media companies.
But if such talks fail the parties would be forced into talks under the “bargaining code” to decide how much the digital platforms should pay.
The mandatory code aims to combat the bargaining power imbalance between news businesses and digital platforms, brought on by advertisers flocking to the latter.
The government estimates for every $100 spent on online advertising, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook and $19 goes to other media.
Facebook is also unhappy with the plan, arguing in its submission to the inquiry that the proposal has already deterred its planned investments in Australian news.
“The bill is not, as its name suggests, a bargaining code: it removes the potential for genuine bargaining by forcing Facebook to make payments that are detached from true calculations of commercial value and by incentivising news publishers to make unreasonable ambit claims and bargain in non-commercial ways,” the company said.
“It removes any meaningful influence over our own commercial dealings with publishers.”
Representatives from News Corporation, Australian Associated Press, Nine, Guardian Australia, the ABC and SBS will also appear at Friday’s hearing.
AAP is not covered by the bill as it’s a wholesale seller of news but it would benefit its customers.
Rather than pushing to be included in the code, the national newswire is seeking long-term government support, which it says would help achieve the bill’s goal of helping the sustainability of the Australian news media sector.
Representatives from Twitter won’t be appearing on Friday but in its submission the company has expressed concern the code won’t protect consumer welfare and choice and instead entrench dominant players.