The Public Interest Journalism Initiative welcomes and congratulates the government on the passing of the legislation of the Mandatory News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code, a world first. We also welcome Facebook’s return to the negotiating table and its decision to return news to its Australian users.

PIJI is pleased to see a variety of commercial deals being struck outside of the Code.

We note the Government’s statements that the Code seeks to support the breadth and scale of media diversity in Australia, including small-medium and regional news. We understand the need for the latest amendments within the context of negotiations on this legislation. However, it will be important that the Code does not lead to unintended consequences by allowing any small to medium media outlets to fall through a gap.

Several key concerns repeatedly emerged during our extensive industry engagement on the Code’s development, namely:

  • Gaps in peak representation for small to medium public interest journalism producers
  • A lack of sufficient expertise in complex negotiations with digital platforms
  • Concern around likely immediate negative impact arising from the market withdrawal of either (or both) digital platforms in response to the Code

PIJI is therefore recommending immediate complementary action to maximise the participation of SME news producers under the Code.

“We are proposing the Government provides an interim injection of funds of $10 million per year for the first two years of the Code’s operation,” says PIJI CEO Anna Draffin.

“The Code’s success will be judged on the final value of total support that flows to news media, given the Code seeks to address the market power imbalance between the digital platforms and news businesses of all sizes.”

This crucial capacity funding must be directed to SMEs to enable them to build negotiating expertise, gain better understanding of their market value through deal cycles and develop robust peak representation for different segments of the industry.

It is proposed funding would be available to news businesses registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under the Code and with annual turnover up to $30 million.

“Funding could support any manner of capacity building requirements, for instance funding for an existing peak’s negotiating capability or the administration associated with member data collection and analysis to build a case for support or even registration, mediation and arbitration support,” explains Draffin.

“The funding could be administered as a sub-pool of the existing PING program and eligibility conditions linked to maximising SMEs’ participation under the Code and public interest journalism outcomes.

“The reintroduction of a compulsory mediation provision in the final legislation carries time and monetary considerations that may disincentivize SME participation; this capacity funding will offset that risk.”

PIJI looks forward to the progressive use of the Code over the next 12 months and monitoring the health of public interest journalism as a result.

“PIJI has always maintained that no single measure will secure the future of public interest journalism, which is essential to the functioning of our democracy,” says Draffin.

“Our research includes other options to secure this future, such as tax reform, and we look forward to releasing research next week around philanthropic giving .”

For any media inquiries or comment please contact:
Isabelle Oderberg: 0435 966 251 / isabelle.oderberg@piji.com.au  

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