Media Decline Amid Growing Power of Big Tech Demonstrates Need for ACCC Media Code

The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding its draft news bargaining code, with close of submissions today.

 Key Points in Submission:

  • The Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology supports the implementation of a news media bargaining code proposed by the ACCC. Media businesses must be supported to provide the independent journalism that is crucial to Australia’s democracy.
  • The necessity of a mandatory code has been made even more urgent with the pressures media businesses have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
    • There has been little progress in developing a voluntary code.
    • A voluntary code is also insufficient due to unequal power balance between monopoly platforms and diverse media businesses.
    • A mandatory code is therefore crucial to address the inequal bargaining power between digital platforms and media businesses.
    • A mandatory code addresses power imbalance by allowing media businesses to negotiate in a structured way and, if unsuccessful, elevate cases to compulsory arbitration to reach a solution.
  • The scope of the code should be expanded to include the ABC and SBS to ensure the public broadcasters are compensated for the use of their content just as private broadcasters will be. News content benefits digital platforms regardless of whether it is publicly or privately produced.
  • The submission recommends the Federal Government consider a revenue-based levy on large digital platforms to pay for a fund for public interest and other public good journalism, subject to competition law.
  • The submission also considers key points raised by the Google blog post '13 things you need to know about the News Media Bargaining Code' and makes a number of recommendations regarding sharing algorithm changes, monopoly power, the viability of payments to news partners, and news share of search queries.

“This is a critical moment that will define our relationship with the global technology platforms,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

“It is difficult to imagine an issue more pertinent in this digital age than the decline of media revenues and the overwhelming power of Google and Facebook.

“It is clear that action is needed to address the loss of funding for journalism, the substantial market power of Google and Facebook, and the lack of a formal negotiation structure.

“We know that Google and Facebook have become the dominant advertising platforms. We also know the impact this has had on media outlets -- with more than 5,000 jobs disappeared in the past decade.

“Australians have seen the negative impact this has had on our public democracy, with fewer voices and less civic accountability.

 “Finding a way of rebalancing this relationship is clearly in the public interest.”

The Australia Institute Centre for Responsible Technology submission to the ACCC is available here.