Protecting Country Press

Recent threats and disingenuous claims by global tech giants Google and Facebook, provide a stark and compelling reminder of why Government intervention is necessary to force these two global behemoths to the table to negotiate with news media businesses; the subject of their current posturing, Country Press Australia president, Bruce Ellen said.

The negotiating framework outlined in the ACCC’s Mandatory Code exposure draft, proposes like any sensible commercial business arrangement where parties have equal bargaining power, appropriate recognition and recompense is exchanged for the costs incurred by one party in producing a product, then used by another for commercial benefit.

But of course, the power imbalance between two of the most powerful businesses ever seen, and news media businesses, particularly small independent publishers, is immense.

The core of this matter, is the significant cost of producing independent and objective news and journalism by news media businesses vital to our democracy, is being used by the global tech giants to drive increased audiences and engagement, and build trust in their platforms, providing them with both a direct and indirect commercial benefit.

This is primarily in the form of paid advertising on the tech giants’ various platforms leveraged by the size and engagement of their audience, all contributed to by the content taken from news media businesses.

The fact this commercial benefit to the tech giants, has been at the expense of advertising revenue that previously supported the provision of public interest journalism in news media businesses, massively compounds the challenges facing our democracy in sustaining independent and objective reporting, analysis and investigation.

This concern is particularly acute for regional, rural and small publishers, where the economies of scale available to large corporate media conglomerates do not exist. Recent closures of regional newspapers and local broadcasting newsrooms highlight the challenges.

Regional and rural communities should not be excluded from this vital part of our democracy, that holds those in power to account, and sheds a light on injustices in those local communities.

Until the Australian Government led the world in December 2017, by directing the ACCC to investigate competition in the media and advertising services market, escalating concerns about the future of public interest journalism, were largely being ignored by those outside the industry.

“Country Press Australia applauds the Federal Government and ACCC for their determination to bring the global tech giants to the table to address a serious matter that should be of vital concern to all Australians,” Mr Ellen said.