As Australia’s parliament passed the News Media Bargaining Code, Daily Mail owner Lord Rothermere said it had given in to blackmail from Facebook and Google in a letter to the FT.
The new legislation will force tech giants Google and Facebook to pay publishers for their news content.
Paul Fletcher, minister for communications, urban infrastructure, cities and the arts, said: “The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.”
Australia’s parliament passed the law around the same time as Lord Rothermere, the chairman of publishing giant DMGT, accused Google and Facebook of “blackmail” in Australia.
In a letter to the Financial Times, Rothermere accused the duo of holding Australia “to ransom” with threats to withdraw their services from the country ahead of the new regulations.
Rothermere – whose company owns the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Mail Online, the i and Metro – also suggested News Corp has entered into an “unholy alliance” with Google after the rival publisher agreed a new cash-for-content deal with the tech giant.
Last month, with the new regulations on the horizon, Google threatened to withdraw its search engine from Australia. Then, last week, Facebook banned Australian publishers and users from sharing news content – a decision that was reversed this week.
“The platforms responded with blackmail,” said Rothermere in his letter to the FT. “Google threatened to withdraw search in Australia; Facebook cancelled news. A nation was held to ransom – and it surrendered. As long as the platforms persuade enough desperate news publishers to sign take-it-or-leave-it deals, there will now be no fair, independent arbitration.
“In Facebook’s own words: ‘the government has clarified we will retain the ability to decide if news appears on Facebook… to support the publishers we choose.’ In other words Facebook has won the battle. It decides what news is read on social media and how much, if anything, it pays for it.
“Meanwhile Google has signed a global deal with one of its most vociferous critics. News Corp, owner of The Times, has announced it has won ‘significant payments’ and ‘the sharing of ad revenue via Google’s ad technology services’. What does it give in return? Will it continue to fight for fair terms of business for all publishers, or are two of the world’s most ruthless companies now locked in an unholy alliance, giving rise to unfair competition unless its terms are made public?”
Rothermere added: “Politicians everywhere have watched events in Australia with increasing alarm. Now they must ask themselves, who makes the rules? Do the platforms decide what news the public can read, in secret deals with the publishers they favour? Or will governments and regulators act with genuine resolve, to ensure fair and transparent treatment for all?”
Photo credit: REUTERS/Olivia Harris