Boycott Google, Facebook to force them to cover news, says Australian watchdog

20 May 2020 8:46 AM
Australia’s competition watchdog suggested Tuesday that local media could organise a “collective boycott” of Google and Facebook to force the tech giants to cover news they put on their platforms.

The radical idea was among a series of possible bargaining tools submit by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) since it considers a mandatory code of conduct for the tech firms.

Other mechanisms laid out in a 33-page “Concepts Paper” included bilateral negotiations between Australian media organisations and both tech behemoths and collective bargaining involving all the country’s news companies.

But acknowledging the global reach and immense power of Google and Facebook, it said an “alternative bargaining framework” could be needed if direct negotiations fail.

“A collective boycott, or the risk of a collective boycott, may motivate each of Google and Facebook to provide news media businesses appropriate remuneration for the application of their content,” it said.

In an activity being closely watched across the world, Australia last month announced plans to force major internet companies to share advertising revenues earned from news content featured within their services.

While the initial targets of the anti-trust move involved a range of tech firms, including Twitter and Verizon Media, the ACCC said Tuesday it was narrowing its focus to Google and Facebook.

“Facebook and Google were the digital platforms currently benefitting from a substantial imbalance in bargaining power in their commercial negotiations with Australian news media businesses,” it said.

The ACCC is tasked with drawing up a “code of conduct” for payments and addressing other competition concerns with the tech titans.

Its concept paper posed a number of questions about what sort of news should be compensated and how best to determine its value, and gave stakeholders until June 5 to submit recommendations.

The ACCC then has before end of July to draft the final code, that your government has said it'll quickly implement.

Industry struggling

Last week the top of Nine Entertainment, one of Australia’s biggest media companies, needed Google and Facebook to pay news organisations ten percent of their gross annual Australian advertising revenue, which is estimated by the government at Aus$6.0 billion (US$3.9 billion).

Other industry leaders have suggested payments as high as Aus$1.0 billion each year.

Google and Facebook vehemently oppose any mandatory fees and insist they have invested millions of dollars in initiatives helping Australia’s struggling news industry.

The two firms experienced a huge effect on media companies around the world because they capture the lion’s share of internet marketing spending.

In response to falling revenues, Australian news outlets have slashed 20 percent of jobs within the last six years.

The crisis has only deepened in the financial and advertising downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which includes already forced the closure of many smaller news publishers.

An estimated 17 million Australians use Facebook every month and spend typically thirty minutes on the platform a day, while 98 percent of Australian mobile searches use Google.