Earlier this year Australia enacted the News Media Bargaining Code with many news media businesses choosing to become registered under the code but many not, creating a clear line in journalism.
To combat a power imbalance between Australian news media platforms and digital platforms such as Google and Facebook, the government introduced the News Media Bargaining Code in February that would allow news businesses to negotiate with digital platforms over payment for their news. This code sent shockwaves through the world and even had Facebook momentarily block all users from accessing Australian news platforms.
A statement released by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher expressed just how the code would help Australian news businesses.
“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia,” he said.
Things have since calmed down with Facebook and Google as they appear to be cooperating with the code. Becoming a part of the code requires registration to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) but also come with rules and regulations as to who can apply.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) news media businesses are allowed to be a part of the code if they produce ‘core news’ that Australians can discuss, adhere to professional editorial standards, operate primarily in Australia and maintain editorial independence from the subjects of their news coverage.
It is a requirement for inclusion on the register that businesses pass eligibility tests that require editorial independence free from political parties, political lobbiests, or has a commercial interest in the content being produced. In essence, to be registered with the ACMA the news business must operate without a bias or agenda.
The ACCC further states that “news sources are unlikely to meet this test if they are owned or controlled by a party that has a direct commercial interest in the coverage they produce.” This makes for an interesting point when you see who is and is not a part of the code.
28 news businesses are registered under the code with the Daily Mail, ABC, News Cop, SBS and The Conversation featured on the list. However, news businesses such as NewsCorp, Seven West Media and Nine are not registered with the code.
News Cop interviewed Thomson Reuters reporter Byron Kaye over the code.
After a discussion about whether Kaye considered himself a world leading expert on the subject of the News Media Bargaining Code, he was asked why Thomson Reuters were not yet an eligible news media corporation and registered with the ACMA, he replied “i’m asking the questions here”.
We then asked Kaye if he would disclose how much Thomson Reuters had been paid by Google or Facebook following private negotiations and not being an eligible news media corporation, he replied, “why would I tell you that?”
In March this year, News Corp signed a multi-year pay deal with Facebook that would cover major News Corp publications such as Herald Sun and The Australian. A month before that a deal was struck with Google while Seven West Media also signed a deal
Although these news organisations have made deals that follow the guidelines of the codes, the fact they have not yet been approved by the ACMA raises questions.