What is News Media Bargaining Code?

It is in news these days that a new code of conduct has come up in the light. Yes, we are talking about the News Media Bargaining Code. When we brushed up our facts, we got to know that the government of Australia asked the (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) ACCC to develop a code of conduct which will address the bargaining power imbalances occurring between digital platforms like Google and Facebook, and the Australian News Media Businesses.

On 31st July 2020, a draft of this code was released by ACCC for public consultation. A series of Q&As was also released with which ACCC would obtain the views about the draft code. All interested parties were asked to provide their views on this draft code latest by 28th August 2020 at 5 PM.

This code of conduct will ensure that the commercial arrangements made among both parties (Australian News Media and Digital Platforms) don’t undermine the incentives and ability of news media businesses who provide news to Australians.

News Media Bargaining Code is being developed by the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) in close consultation with DITRDC (Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications), and the Department of Treasury.

ACCC had kept it open for the stakeholders to provide their view over this bargaining code within the consultation period. They were provided with a concept paper. This paper was meant to guide this consultation process. It clearly reflected the issues to be included in the bargaining code, exploring and identifying options on how to address these issues, and seeking stakeholders to provide their feedback on how these options can later be applied in the bargaining code.

Questions for Consultation Regarding the News Media Bargaining Code

There were various options that came up front to be included in the news media bargaining code. Due to this, ACCC released a concept paper with few consultation questions for the stakeholders. ACCC wanted the views of the stakeholders on whether these options would provide justice to the code or not. As per accc.gov.au, below are those questions.

  1. How should ‘news’ be defined for the purpose of determining the type of content that will be subject to the bargaining code?
  2. How can a bargaining code ensure that both news media businesses and digital platforms can easily and objectively identify the content subject to the code?
  3. Would it be appropriate for the bargaining code’s definition of ‘news content’ to capture material:
  • With the primary purpose of investigating, recording, or providing commentary on issues of interest to Australians, and
  • That is subject to the professional standards set by a relevant journalism industry body, journalistic standards set in a relevant media industry code, or equivalent journalistic standards set by an individual news media business?

Latest Things to know about News Media Bargaining Code

Which Digital Platforms would be Covered by the News Media Bargaining Code?

Any digital platform would have to participate in this code of conduct if the Department of Treasury specifies that this bargaining code is applicable to it. Australian Government has initially applied this code only on Google and Facebook. In the future, other digital platforms can also get added to this code, if they would hold any bargaining power imbalance with News Media Business in Australia.

What are the Issues Addressed in the News Media Bargaining Code?

This draft code will let Australian news media businesses collectively or individually bargain with Facebook or Google regarding payment for displaying news on their services. The code addresses various issue like:

  • Recognizing news content appropriately which are original.
  • Sharing a notice in advance for the changes to be made in the algorithmic presentation of news and the rankings.
  • Sharing updated information on when and how Facebook and Google collect available user data via users’ interactions made with news content.

What is the Necessity of this Code?

Well, for a very long time there have been imbalances regarding bargaining power among the news media businesses and the digital platforms. The bargaining power imbalance has resulted in Australian news media businesses to accept less favorable terms than they would actually agree to. This news media bargaining code will address such imbalances and will result in resolving the issues.

When would this Bargaining Code Commence?

The code would immediately commence once the relevant legislation is introduced and passages in the Australian Parliament. The ACCC has already released a draft code with ACC Concepts Paper and consultation Q&As on 31st July 2020. ACCC openly asked for the views of various stakeholders and closed the consultation procedure on 28th August 2020. The final legislation will be shortly introduced to the Australian Parliament, once the result of this consultation process is decided.

Who is Responsible for this Code?

This news media bargaining code has been developed by ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) under the consultation of the Department of Treasury, and DITRDC (Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Communications). ACCC is responsible for the administration and enforcement of this code. The ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) is responsible to determine the eligibility of various news media businesses who would want to participate in this code.

Google’s Open Letter to Australians

As per our research, Google published a letter openly for Australians, stating some news about this code of conduct. But, as per ACCC, the letter contains misinformation about the code. The letter came in form of an alert and could be seen by Google users in Australia. The letter stated that how this new code of conduct by the Australian Government would hurt the Australians use of Google and YouTube.

It also stated that Google is forced to provide low quality serving experience, and also that the data provided by the users may be handed over to big news businesses. Further, it stated that the free services used by Australians will come to risk with this new code.

However, this is not the case. As per ACCC, more than hundreds of rural and regional newspapers got shut down in the pandemic, and many journalists had to quit their jobs due to low revenue generation. Many newspaper businesses stated that Google makes money from the news that they publish, but they do not get the benefit from their own news.

So, the whole point of bringing this code is to let these news businesses to negotiate with Google and Facebook, for a fair payment share on various Google and Facebook services. It’s a fair request for the efforts of journalists who work hard to bring out news to Australians. 

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