Ahead of this Saturday's federal election, broadcaster-and-publisher Nine Entertainment is asking the government to commit to ‘designating’ digital platforms that won’t make fair deals with Australian media companies.
The publisher of influential metro mastheads the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age made its own agreements under the country's bargaining code a year ago this month, and wants to know how willing the government is to follow through.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg published a discussion document last month after asking for views on the working of the code. In response, Nine is asking for a “statement of expectation” to make it clear the government is willing to designate digital platforms that will not negotiate. Nine says in a submission to the treasury’s review that signalling this intent in respect to Facebook’s news feed, YouTube and Twitter “would provide an incentive for those platforms to enter into commercial agreements with Australian news operations”.
Nine says that without a “clear statement”, Google and Facebook might not be as willing to enter into “genuine negotiations” with it, or other media businesses in the future.
It says its concern is “compounded by the ongoing behaviour of the platforms in other markets, and also in Australia prior to the government introducing the news media bargaining code”.
In the US, Google is arguing that Australia’s laws should not be replicated, and Nine says it fears Facebook has similar views. It pointed to Facebook's action in Australia, removing news content from its platform ahead of the code's introduction, understood to have been a negotiating ploy to force a favourable government decision.
While Nine says it negotiated “valuable deals” with both firms, it fears the existing contracts may bot be renewed, or that there will be “conduct which has the purpose or effect of significantly devaluing the news content prior to a commercial negotiation taking place”.
It also wants the code to be reviewed every two years to keep pace with the fast-changing nature of the digital environment. “This ongoing threatened power dynamic needs continual management and review otherwise the ongoing sustainability of Australian news media businesses and the content that they create for Australian audiences will be at stake,” it says.