The Australian government may have opened the floodgates with a new law dubbed the News Media Bargaining Code. The law aims to tackle long-standing clashes between publishers and Big Tech platforms. Mint explains.
What is Australia’s new media code?
The News Media Bargaining Code makes it mandatory for Big Tech firms to pay news publishers for showing links on their platforms. It requires platforms to strike commercial deals with publishers, failing which, the matter will go into arbitration where the arbiter will have to choose between the platform’s offer or the one made by the publisher. It also asks tech platforms to disclose changes to news ranking algorithms to publishers 28 days in advance, except in certain “public interest” scenarios. The latter may include natural disaster coverage etc., like Google’s algorithm change to prioritize pandemic-related info.
How does this impact news publishers?
On the one hand, the law could enhance publishers’ revenues in terms of the licensing fees, that the platforms will have to pay. But on the other hand, platforms could simply choose not to display links to news articles and thereby escape paying the fees altogether, which will lead to a drop in traffic or readership for publishers, adversely affecting their revenues. Over the past week or so, Google has struck deals with several news media companies in Australia, while Facebook decided to ban news links from being shared altogether, by both its users and publications.
What issues does the code aim to address?
It is no secret that news publishers globally have been strapped for cash for years now. The pandemic triggered massive layoffs across media firms worldwide. Experts believe publishers today lack bargaining power against Big Tech platforms, which act as gatekeepers to the internet. The News Bargaining Code aims to level the playing field for publishers.
Will it solve problems afflicting news firms?
Only in the sense that publishers may get some more money. The law keeps smaller publishers out of contention for such deals, there are also no rules mandating publishers to use this licensing fee to further their news reportage. For platforms, sharing links without threat of copyright violation is a key part of the open internet. Making platforms pay also doesn’t mitigate the impact of algorithm-driven echo chambers created online, which many have argued is detrimental to news publishers everywhere.
How can India tackle this larger problem?
Experts say that the Competition Commission of India would first need to see proof that Big Tech is predatory towards publishers and that they operate in the same market. Some also say that Central Consumer Protection Authority could intervene. However, many say that no authority will be as effective as consumers themselves. The simplest, yet toughest way out is for consumers to stop using platforms as a source of news consumption. Readers could choose to engage with their preferred news outlets directly.