23/02/2021 - 12:30

Facebook restores Australian news

23/02/2021 - 12:30


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Facebook has struck a preliminary news sharing agreement with Seven West Media, just hours after the federal government agreed to further amend its mandatory media bargaining code.

Facebook restores Australian news
Josh Frydenberg confirmed the last-minute legislative changes after days of negotiations with the social media giant. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Facebook has struck a preliminary news sharing agreement with Seven West Media, just hours after the federal government agreed to further amend its mandatory media bargaining code.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the last-minute legislative changes this afternoon after days of high-level negotiations with the social media giant.

"Facebook has re-friended Australia," he told reporters in Canberra.

The changes have also seen Facebook reinstate Australian news on its platform.

Seven West announced later this afternoon it has signed a letter of intent to provide news content to Facebook.

The LOI is subject to signing a long-form agreement between the two companies, expected to be executed over the following 60 days.

It comes after Seven West and other publishers in Australia announced similar deals with Google.

Seven West chairman Kerry Stokes said the Facebook partnership was a significant move for the business.

“On 15 February we announced a LOU for a partnership with Google, to provide news content to the Google Showcase product,” he said.

“Together, the two announcements are a strong recognition of the quality and credibility of our leading news brands and entertainment and will enable us to continue to build our digital platform.”

Seven West managing director James Warburton said both agreements are a significant step forward for Australian news media and a clear acknowledgement by all parties of the value and importance of original news content.

Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton said the agreement would bring the news content Seven produces to the social media platform.

“We have always been committed to supporting journalism and our agreement today continues our work with the news community in Australia,” Mr Easton said.

Mr Frydenberg said Facebook would need to negotiate commercial agreements with other publishers.

"We've made it very clear they need to do commercial deals with Australian media businesses," he said.

Under the changes to the bargaining code, digital platforms will be given one month's notice before they are formally designated under the code.

The amendments will give parties more time to broker agreements before they are forced to enter binding arbitration.

Facebook said it was satisfied the changes addressed the company's core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value of commercial deals.

The treasurer said the code remained mandatory, based on two-way value exchange and retained a last-resort arbitration mechanism.

"It is a world-leading code," he said.

A non-discrimination clause will remain in place so Google and Facebook can't favour some news organisations over others.

"You can't do deals with one party and not do deals with other parties and not be subject to the code," Mr Frydenberg said.

The treasurer said the world's eyes had been on the outcome of the government's negotiations with the companies.

"There is no doubt that Australia has been a proxy battle for the world."

Government advertising on Facebook will restart after a brief pause.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie says the code, which will require digital platforms to pay for Australian news, will make media organisations even more dependent on the success of Google and Facebook.

Senator Lambie argues the money generated will simply shift from one set of corporate titans to another.

"Shareholders of News Corp and Nine will be delighted that their dividend is about to be fattened up on the back of shareholders in Facebook and Google," she told parliament.

Senator Lambie said businesses wanting to advertise online would end up bearing the cost of tech giants paying for news.

"This is a bipartisan shakedown delivered by a consensus of absolute stupidity."

She savaged a Greens proposal to ensure money that flowed from the code was spent on journalism.

The bargaining code is expected to pass the Senate this week with support from Labor and the Greens.


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