Facebook signs deals with Australian media companies

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Facebook told Australian publishers it had stopped negotiating licensing deals, an industry email seen by Reuters showed, a move just six months after legislation was passed to require the tech giants to pay for news content.

As Facebook announced deals with most of the country’s biggest news outlets, some companies, including TV broadcaster SBS and smaller publishers, were left out, raising questions about the reach and effectiveness. of this revolutionary law.

Australia is the only country with a law where the government can set costs if negotiations between tech giants and information providers fail, but the banned companies have little recourse at the moment and are waiting. that the government revise the law in 2022. as planned.

Facebook’s regional head of press partnerships, Andrew Hunter, said in an email to publishers in August that he had “now” made deals in which he would pay Australian companies for content on his “Facebook channel. News “which has just been launched.

Nick Shelton, founder of Broadsheet Media, a website that publishes news, reviews and entertainment listings and has been pushed back by Facebook, said the move to make new deals was “clearly an attempt by Facebook to limit their exposure to independent publishers ”.

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The Special Broadcasting Service, or SBS, one of Australia’s five national free-to-air broadcasters and the country’s leading foreign-language news source, said Facebook had refused to enter into negotiations despite months of attempts and that he was surprised and disappointed. He noted that he had successfully struck a deal with Google.

“This result is at odds with the government’s intention to support public interest journalism, and in particular to include public service broadcasters under the Code with regard to remuneration,” a door said on Wednesday. – SBS spoke in a press release.

Hunter said in the email to editors, which has not been made public, that rejected editors will continue to benefit from clicks from Facebook and recommended that they receive a new round of industry grants. .

In a separate statement to Reuters, Hunter said content agreements were “just one of the ways in which Facebook provides support to publishers, and we have had ongoing discussions with publishers about the types of content available. news that can best add value to publishers and for Facebook.

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Facebook did not respond directly to questions about the Broadsheet Media and SBS statements.

The US social media giant has made deals with a range of major Australian media companies, including News Corp and Australian Broadcasting Corp, and has a collective bargaining deal with rural publishers. But only a handful of independent and smaller publishers have made deals.

Other rejected editors included The Conversation, which publishes commentaries on public affairs by academics, Reuters previously reported. This prompted a reprimand from the regulator who drafted the law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission declined to comment on Wednesday.

Under the law, which led Facebook to briefly block third-party content on news feeds in the country in February, Facebook and Google must negotiate with the media for content that drives traffic to their websites or causes in the face of possible government intervention.

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But before there can be any government intervention, the federal treasurer must determine that Facebook or Google did not negotiate in good faith, a step known as “designation.” A representative for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was not immediately available for comment.

Facebook’s rejection of SBS and Conversation flies in the face of the law’s basic proposition that it “should be required to compensate public interest journalism,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Center for Responsible Technology, a think tank.

“The treasurer has no choice but to review Facebook’s designation to ensure it meets its commitments to public service journalism in Australia.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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