Australia’s government prepared a binding code to address what it sees as an imbalance in power between news media businesses and digital platforms, with the proposal to be reviewed by parliament tomorrow (9 December).

The law is intended to encourage Google and Facebook to negotiate deals with local publishers for their content, or go through an independent “final offer arbitration” process to determine a sum.

In a joint statement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the code was world-leading and aimed to ensure news businesses get paid a fair fee.

The politicians explained digital platforms had fundamentally changed the way media content is produced, distributed and consumed, and the code underscores government efforts to ensure the economy can take full advantage of the benefits of digital technology while protecting a strong and sustainable Australian news media.

A draft of the code was released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in July.

Further review
As noted at the time, the code is initially targeting Facebook NewsFeed and Google Search, but other digital platform services may be added if there is sufficient evidence showing they create an imbalance in bargaining power over fees.

The code will be reviewed after a year to ensure it is delivering outcomes consistent with the government’s goal, the politicians explained.

Facebook previously threatened to block sharing of news on its services, while Google warned of harm to search results and free services.