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News Media Bargaining Code review shows need for more ACCC information gathering

November 10, 2022

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PIJI welcomes the recommendation of the News Media Bargaining Code for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to be granted further information-gathering powers in order to obtain information about the commercial agreements struck under the legislation.

Over 30 commercial agreements have been struck between the digital platforms and Australian news businesses since the Code’s implementation.

“The efficacy of the code will remain difficult to assess due to the confidential nature of the commercial agreements struck between digital platforms and Australian news businesses,” said PIJI chair Professor Allan Fels, a former chair of the ACCC.

“Transparency is necessary in order for industry and Government to understand the Code’s ongoing capacity and limitations.”

Treasury’s 12-month review of the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, released yesterday, concluded the “Code has been a success to date.” But PIJI CEO Anna Draffin warns the legislation, while significant, is far from a cure-all for Australia’s media sector and further action is necessary to ease the pressure on news organisations.

“As the review itself states, the Code is not intended to address broader issues affecting Australia’s media diversity, nor the provision of public interest journalism,” said Anna Draffin.

“This is why PIJI has repeatedly pointed to the need for an R&D style tax rebate, precisely to encourage investment of deal dollars into public interest journalism, giving immediate public benefit while also offering benefit for news businesses not covered by deals.

“In PIJI’s submission to the Code’s review, we provided data from our Australian Newsroom Mapping Project showing that 12 months after the legislation was introduced, 41 per cent of local print and digital outlets were not covered by deals under the Code. There are notable omissions from those benefiting from deals, including mandated non-English news broadcaster SBS, which is also one of the largest public interest journalism producers in the country.

“PIJI is also concerned about the recommendation that the Government should consider reviewing the Code again after four years after the Code’s commencement.

“This timing will not cover current deal cycles, many of which will finish between February and June of 2024.”

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