The year and a half long inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into the market dominance and business practices of Google and Facebook have led to concrete recommendations designed to support and strengthen the Australian independent news media: taxpayer funding for local journalism and media literacy organisations and tax breaks for donations to not-for-profit organisations engaging in public-interest journalism – were some among the 23 recommendations.
Separately, Facebook has announced an A$5m ($3.6m) investment via its Journalism Project News Accelerator support journalists, academics and news organizations in their efforts to advance journalism and help develop sustainable business models in Australia. In the US, Facebook has been fined for its part in the Cambridge Analytica data privacy breach.
Other recommendations of the 18-month-long enquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would force digital platforms to implement a code of conduct to govern how they handled complaints about the spread of inaccurate information, which would be registered and enforced by an independent regulator such as the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
It would also mean the platforms to be required to develop a code of conduct to ensure news businesses are treated fairly and transparently and given early notifications about changes to news ranking. The code should also cover negotiations between the platforms and news businesses in the sharing of revenue from advertising, the ACCC said.
While the 23 ACCC recommendations were widely welcomed, there is news industry concern that they do not go far enough in addressing market issues created by the central business models of platforms.
Michael Miller, executive chairman, News Corp Australia, said: “We welcome the strength of the language and the identification of the problems created by the dominance and immense market power of the digital platforms. Equally, we are encouraged by the stated determination of the government to address these problems.
“The recommended regulatory and legislative measures must be powerful enough to correct the adverse effects associated with digital platforms and their impact on Australian consumers and businesses, including news content creators. We will work with the government to ensure their commitment is matched by real change.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the federal government decision on what should be done regarding the recommendations is unlikely before the end of 2019. He said the government accepted the “overriding conclusion” of the report that reform was needed “to better protect consumers, improve transparency, recognise power imbalances and ensure that substantial market power is not used to lessen competition in media and advertising services markets”.
The companies have 12 weeks to respond.
A spokesman for Google Australia said: “The final report examines important topics in relation to Australia’s changing media and advertising industry and we have engaged closely with the ACCC throughout the process,” he said.