On 20 April 2020, the Australian Government announced it had directed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and each of Google and Facebook.
Informing the draft code
The ACCC released the Mandatory News Media Bargaining Code concepts paper on 19 May. In response, the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, joined by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, consulted widely across the news media industry, digital platforms, sector peak bodies and community organisations.
The two organisations, motivated by a common interest in a sustainable future for public interest journalism, prepared a joint submission to inform the code’s development.
The submission examined the following issues:
- Definitions of news and public interest journalism;
- The inclusivity of the Code, particularly its bargaining framework, in terms of all manner of participants in the news media ecosystem;
- Data sharing, algorithmic transparency; and
- Code monitoring, enforcement and revision.
The submission makes the following recommendations:
- A hybrid bargaining framework to enable larger players to negotiate directly with digital platforms if desired, while small and medium players form a collective arrangement
- Adopt an interim value measure, given the ACCC’s finding of an existing market imbalance and given there is no precise data on the value of news for digital platforms. An example might be a share of Australian advertising revenue or the value the Australian public places on news or the cost of producing public interest journalism.
- A pragmatic distribution model based on investment dollars in news, while a more precise formula is developed.
The submission also recognises that while the code is an important initiative, additional policy reform measures are required to ensure public interest journalism has a sustainable future in Australia:
- Tax rebates to encourage investment
- Philanthropic incentives, for example a specific category of charitable purpose; Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status
- Funding for ‘other language’ news services
- Continued copyright reform
- Changes to media ownership law
Joint Project Team
The joint submission was prepared by PIJI’s Policy Working Group, as well as representatives of both the Public Interest Journalism Initiative and the Judith Neilson Institute, supported by two research consultants from the University of Technology Sydney.
Anna Draffin, Chief Executive Officer, Public Interest Journalism Initiative
Mark Ryan, Executive Director, Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
Anthony Bubalo, Chief Operating Officer, Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
Dr Karen Lee, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney
Dr Sacha Molitorisz, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Media Transition, University of Technology Sydney
Gary Dickson, Research and Policy Manager, Public Interest Journalism Initiative
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