Protecting Google’s Journalism: Australia Uses Antitrust Laws

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To protect Big Tech journalism, we should follow Australia’s lead.

Ttoday, nearly half of the counties in the United States have only one newspaper, while nearly 200 counties have no local newspaper. Over the past two years, 300 publications have been closed, with more than 6,000 journalists dismissed.

Google and Facebook attract 80% of digital ad spend and 45% of all ad spend in the United States. On the one hand, the big tech giants are helping information providers by disseminating their information. But with the other, they siphon off so much of their ad revenue (two-thirds of all searches on Google don’t even give a click outside of Google anymore) that they can barely survive. And many did not.

To protect all publishers, but especially smaller ones, the United States should follow Australia, which this year began using antitrust competition laws to unlock payments large enough to help journalism survive.

The news media trading code, adopted in February this year, requires dominant technology platforms to negotiate and pay news publishers in Australia for the use of their online content. Instead of pushing digital platforms to pay more for media by strengthening copyright laws, as Europe has done, Australia has designed an antitrust law that improves the bargaining power of media companies. and treats every negotiation as if it were a financial settlement in an antitrust lawsuit. The code forces tech companies into binding arbitration with the media for payment for the value they get by having their news content in news feeds and search results.

The Australian solution is elegant and efficient. The law deploys a final offer arbitration method if the parties cannot reach an agreement on compensation, which requires both parties to submit a final offer to an arbitrator and allows the arbitrator to choose one. . This measure encourages both parties to make a legitimate offer. Second, it also contains protection that helps ensure a deal is made: if a negotiation fails, the tech company can’t boycott that publisher’s content. It must either host all Australian journalism on its network or broadcast none.

Initially, Google and Facebook opposed the law and threatened to withdraw from Australia. However, Australia has made it clear its willingness to pass the law, so Google has backed down and signed deals to pay Australian media companies. In one of the first deals it made, Google agreed to pay Nine Entertainment Co., which owns the Sydney Morning Herald and Age, more than $ 30 million in cash per year for the use of its news content for five years. And soon after, Google struck a three-year global deal with family-owned media conglomerate Murdoch News Corp. for its brands in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, such as the the Wall Street newspaper and New York Post to appear in the Google News storefront.

Facebook has been slower to come. At first, the platform retaliated by blocking Australian users from sharing or viewing news content on its platform. After five days, he agreed to lift the ban because last minute changes to the code were made. Since the law was enacted, Facebook, like Google, has made its own deals with news providers, including News Corp. and others.

Small newspapers have benefited enormously. The Australian news agency Country Press Australia (CPA), which includes more than 180 regional and local publications, has struck a deal with Google. According to Mumbrella, 70 of CPA’s posts will appear in the Google News Showcase, and Google will pay CPA to curate program content. These small publishers would otherwise not have had the opportunity to obtain compensation, according to David Chavern, chairman of the US-based News Media Alliance.

A similar approach to Australia’s was introduced in Congress in the form of the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). Also known as the “Safe Harbor Bill,” it would suspend antitrust restrictions for four years to allow publishers to unite to negotiate fair compensation for news content with Facebook and Google. Currently, no information company is able to negotiate with Google on its own.

Rep. David Cicilline (D., RI) also suggested he was trying to add a provision to the bill for the federal government to serve as the final arbiter if an agreement cannot be reached, such as the arbitration provision. Australia’s mandatory code. Supporters are hoping the bill will progress further this fall.

And time is running out. Google is already working hard to feature individual media outlets on the Google News Showcase for comparatively low dollar amounts. He’s trying to make these separate deals to weed out the big guys, which would then leave all the local papers helpless to fend for themselves. But if Congress soon passes legislation, allowing news companies to regroup, all newspapers could receive fair compensation deals with Big Tech.

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Clare Morell is a policy analyst at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, where she works on the Big Tech Project. She worked in the White House board office and the Justice Department during the Trump administration.


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