CANBERRA, AAP – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims says he is “very happy” with the mandatory media code that is set to pass parliament.
“This is a high-stakes game,” Mr Sims told parliament’s economics committee on Wednesday.
“The media bargaining code has already gone a long way in meeting its objective.”
He said the fact there had been commercial deals done before the code has been passed is “absolutely fine”.
“The whole point of the code is to promote journalism,” he said.
“This is a matter of the whole world watching, we’ll certainly be watching, and we want journalism to benefit from the code.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has this week discussed the code with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.
Mr Sims said unless deals were done by all eligible firms, including smaller ones, he expected Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to have to intervene using the code.
Asked by Labor’s Andrew Leigh whether it was the actual code or the threat of the code that was working, Mr Sims said he did not know whether Facebook or Google would have followed through on threats that included limiting service in Australia but was surprised when news disappeared from Facebook’s platform last week.
The ACCC had been “hoping” that both sides would want to avoid arbitration and “cut a deal”, he said.
Critics including the media union say the media bargaining code will boost the profits of Australia’s two dominant media firms – Nine and News Corp – and will not support smaller players, new entrants to the market or public-interest journalism.
The amended News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code Bill is set to pass parliament after Mr Frydenberg struck a deal with Facebook to recognise commercial deals with news outlets, rather than insisting on pay-per-click arrangements.
Labor, supporting the bill and the government amendments, says the code is an important step but is just one of a suite of measures recommended by the competition watchdog after the 2019 digital platforms inquiry.
“The government has a lot more to do to support public-interest journalism in Australia,” Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said.