Moves to make digital platforms begin to compensate media organisations for the content they have been using for free will go some way towards providing a sustainable future for public interest journalism in Australia, says the main journalists union.
The announcement that the Australian government will introduce legislation for a mandatory code on digital platforms is a welcome move, says the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the mandatory code would force digital aggregators like Google and Facebook to negotiate in good faith with media outlets for the use of the content they create, and to provide notice of changes to the platforms’ algorithms that may affect the news outlets’ rankings and search results.
MEAA first proposed a levy on aggregators in its July 2017 submission to the Senate inquiry into the future of public interest journalism and again in 2018 during the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s inquiry into digital platforms.
MEAA media federal president Marcus Strom said: “The government has realised that voluntary codes don’t work when there is a bargaining power imbalance.
“Google and Facebook have in part grown off the back of news content. The creators of that content, news media outlets, have suffered while still producing vital public interest journalism.
“Google and Facebook will now be required to negotiate responsibly with news media and start paying for the content they have exploited for free.
“MEAA supports the development of a mandatory code and we will scrutinise the draft legislation carefully. MEAA intends to monitor the distribution of the funds which we believe should support emerging and future journalism, not just existing media outlets,” Strom said.