Australia: Inquiry finds Google, Facebook threat to public interest journalism

A report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that the rise of Google, Facebook and similar businesses is a threat to public interest journalism in Australia. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) have welcomed the findings of the ACCC report, calling on the government to urgently act on the report’s recommendations.

The ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry report came after the Australian Government directed the ACCC to conduct an inquiry into digital platforms in December 2017. The inquiry looked at the effect that digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content aggregation platforms have on competition in media and advertising services markets. In particular, the inquiry looked at the impact of digital platforms on the supply of news and journalistic content and the implications of this for media content creators, advertisers and consumers.

Among the findings of the report, the ACCC pointed to the abandonment of critical areas of public interest journalism and local news coverage, with its observation of the closure of 106 local and regional news titles throughout the country in the ten years to 2018. To overcome this crisis, the ACCC recommended stable and adequate funding for the public broadcasters, the development of sustainable and independent funding to secure the future of local news coverage through an annual $50 million grant program, and tax reforms to enable the growth of not for profit journalism.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said the ACCC had also correctly recognised that Google and Facebook should be regulated similarly to other media businesses.

“In this review, the ACCC has acknowledged that the ubiquity of Google and Facebook has placed them in a ‘privileged position’ in Australia’s media landscape where they have substantial bargaining power with news media businesses. Google and Facebook need to negotiate responsibly with media content organisations and start paying for the content they have thus far exploited for free.

We are pleased that the ACCC has picked up on recommendations first made by MEAA to support public interest journalism,” said MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy.

The IFJ said: “We reiterate the sentiments by the MEAA in welcoming the report and recommendations by the ACCC. Public interest journalism remains a vital component of the media, and necessary steps should be taken to ensure it’s future in Australia. “

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on 
+61 2 9333 0918

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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