Australia’s News Media Code reaches Parliament with expected minor changes | Australian media

The Morrison government will introduce minor changes to the news media code this week as landmark legislation that would force Google and Facebook to negotiate with news outlets for payment is finally debated in parliament.

The technical changes are not seen as significant by supporters of the legislation, as the main intent of supporting Australian public interest journalism remains intact.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she would push for amendments to ensure that money earned by media companies through the code is invested in journalism and not distributed as shareholder profits.

“It’s good news that with the threat of legislation hanging over their heads, Google has started to strike fair deals with media companies,” she told Guardian Australia.

“It shows that the code is needed to bring big tech companies to the negotiating table, and it needs to be embraced.

“The purpose of the code is to protect public interest journalism in Australia.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the legislation would be a “precursor” to more commercial deals between Google, and “ideally” Facebook, and news outlets.

“A central feature of the code is that it encourages parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the code,” Communications Ministers Paul Fletcher and Frydenberg said in a joint statement.

“It is encouraging to see recent reports that news media companies and digital platforms are now striking commercial deals, against the backdrop of the introduction of the code in Parliament on 9 December 2020 and the support of the Senate Economic Legislation.”

On Monday, Seven West Media signed a $30 million deal with Google to feature its content, and other media companies are expected to follow. A number of smaller media companies have already struck a deal with Google, including The Conversation and Crikey.

Google declined to comment on the changes, but said it now has 46 news outlets, including Seven, signed up to its Google News Showcase product which it says should be part of the code.

After initially threatening to pull the search from Australia, Google softened its stance and indicated that it may be willing to pay similar amounts to media companies through Showcase licensing agreements to avoid setting a precedent by paying for content shown in search.

The technology platform continues to negotiate separate deals under News Showcase with the other media companies, including News Corp Australia, Nine Entertainment, Australian Community Media and Guardian Australia.

While a Senate committee last week approved the legislation without pushing for any amendments, the government has since made some ‘technical clarifications and changes’ which they say improve the ‘functionality’ of the code while maintaining its overall effect. .

Director of the Australia Institute’s Center for Responsible Technology, Peter Lewis, said the amendments kept the integrity of the media code intact.

“What’s critical is that the code provides a systemic response to the monopoly power of Google and Facebook by recognizing the value of public interest news journalism,” Lewis said.

“The fact that Google and Facebook are making major deals with Australian media shows that the code is working before it even becomes law.”

Google’s director of government affairs, Lucinda Longcroft, said last week that the code should apply to Showcase, which already pays publishers around the world.

“We look forward to engaging with policymakers throughout the parliamentary process to address our concerns and arrive at a code that works for everyone – publishers, digital platforms and Australian businesses and users,” she said. .

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