$10m fines in new digital media payment legislation

Google and Facebook face $10 million fines if they don’t follow the rules of Australia’s proposed media code to ensure they pay for news.

Photo: supplied

Photo: supplied

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Wednesday introduced the underpinning bill to parliament to set up the “world-first” laws to make digital giants pay news companies for their content.

“It’s designed to level the playing field and to ensure a sustainable and viable Australian media landscape,” he said.

Failing to comply with requirements, such as bargaining in good faith, would see digital platforms pay a fine of up to $10 million.

Compliance costs are also expected to be $10.5 million to $13 million per year, largely affecting digital platforms.

The laws would force the two big digital platforms to negotiate with news media companies in putting a price on their content.

If an agreement isn’t reached within three months an independent panel of arbitrators will decide on what Facebook and Google should pay – based on separate bids from the platforms and the companies.

But the legal hammer may not need to be triggered in some cases, with Frydenberg saying media companies are close to sealing deals with the tech giants.

Google and Facebook are the first two platforms to be netted by the scheme but Frydenberg will be given powers to sign up others.

Labor and the Greens were broadly supportive of the code ahead of the draft legislation’s release but wanted to see the fine detail.

“We are prepared to support, in principle, efforts to ensure that the playing field is levelled between the tech platforms and the news media organisations,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said on Tuesday.

“We do want to see quality journalism properly paid for in this country.”

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The ABC and SBS will be included in the code, as well as commercial news media organisations.

Asked about Australian Associated Press, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the national newswire could register.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said her party would hold government to account to ensure the ABC’s funding base was not eroded if it struck a deal with the platforms, and AAP received ongoing support.


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