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New Zealand to echo Australia on law for news content by tech giants?

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In 2021, the Australian government implemented a law that gives them the power to make tech giants Meta and Google pay for news content with local news organizations. Negotiating the law took some time with a brief shutdown of Facebook’s news feeds in the country.

An agreement was eventually reached. The News Media Bargaining Code came into effect in March 2021 and has since inked more than 30 deals with media outlets compensating for content that generated clicks and advertising dollars. The findings were highlighted in a report by the Australian Treasury department.

“While this review finds that, overall, the Code has performed well against its objectives in its first year, the commercial and technological environment in which news businesses and digital platforms operate is evolving quickly…Finally, other countries are moving to address similar concerns to those the Code seeks to address. For example, legislation was introduced into the Canadian Parliament on 5 April 2022 that would establish a broadly similar framework to the Code to ensure fair revenue sharing between digital platforms and news businesses,” the report stated.

Speaking with Reuters, Stephen Jones, Assistant Treasurer stated that the review shows the Code has been successful in balancing bargaining power between news media and digital platforms.

“Digital platforms must continue to negotiate in good faith with news businesses to ensure they are fairly remunerated for the news content they create,” said Jones.

While Meta declined to comment, Reuters also reported that Google director of government affairs and public policy in Australia Lucinda Longcroft said the company had “furthered our significant contribution to the Australian news industry” by signing deals representing 200 mastheads across the country and “the majority of these outlets are regional or local”.

Interestingly, Australia’s law on tech giants has also caught the attention of several other countries around the world. Following Australia’s success in implementing its law, Reuters also reports that the New Zealand government is now considering introducing a similar law. Minister of Broadcasting Willie Jackson said in a statement that the legislation will be modeled on similar laws in Australia and Canada, and he hoped it would act as an incentive for the digital platforms to reach deals with local news outlets.

“New Zealand news media, particularly small regional and community newspapers, are struggling to remain financially viable as more advertising moves online. It is critical that those benefiting from their news content actually pay for it,” said Jackson, as reported by Reuters. The new legislation will go to a vote in parliament where the governing Labour Party’s majority is expected to pass it.

For Meta and Google, stricter regulations around the world are becoming a norm. Apart from paying for news content, both tech giants also have to ensure they meet data regulatory and compliance requirements. Failure to do so has led to them being heavily fined.

In fact, Google is taking a final appeal on a record US$4.5 billion European Union antitrust fine over its dominance in the Android mobile market. Meanwhile, Meta was also recently fined US$ 279 million by the Irish Data Protection over a data breach that saw the personal details of millions of Facebook users published online.

The Guardian also reported that social media sites like TikTok and Twitter could eventually be assessed for whether the should pay news companies for content. These were some of the recommendations made in the review of the Code. Simply put, news will no longer be made free by the law.