New Zealand is planning to bring in a law mandating Big Tech firms, such as Alphabet Inc (which owns Google) and Meta Platforms Inc (Facebook), to pay media firms for the local news content that appears on their feed.
According to a Reuters report, the New Zealand Minister of Broadcasting, Willie Jackson, said on Sunday that the law would be on the lines of similar rules in Australia and Canada.
Need for law
Facebook and Google are platforms from where a very large number of readers, globally, consume their news. The tech firms influence what sort of news, and from what publications, a user gets to see on her feed. The platforms gain in terms of clicks, engagement and revenue from the content produced by news media organisations. This, when the media firms themselves, especially if they are small newspapers, are struggling financially, with more and more advertising going online. Over the years and in different corners of the world, there have been calls for Big Tech “fairly compensating” news media firms.
Minister Jackson said he hoped the law would act as an incentive for digital platforms to reach deals with local news outlets.
“New Zealand news media, particularly small regional and community newspapers, are struggling to remain financially viable as more advertising moves online,” Jackson was quoted as Reuters by saying. “It is critical that those benefiting from their news content actually pay for it.”
The legislation will now be introduced in Parliament, where the ruling party with its majority is expected to pass it.
Australia’s landmark law
In 2021, Australia brought in a landmark law to make tech giants pay for news content, amid stiff opposition from Google and Facebook. The legislation set a precedent in regulating social media across geographies, and its progress was watched the world over.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website, “The Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Act 2021 (the code) is a mandatory code of conduct which governs commercial relationships between Australian news businesses and ‘designated’ digital platforms who benefit from a significant bargaining power imbalance.The ACCC considers that addressing this imbalance is necessary to support the sustainability of the Australian news media sector, which is essential to a well-functioning democracy.”
The website adds, “Following the introduction of the code, Google and Facebook (now Meta) have reached voluntary commercial agreements with a significant number of news media organisations.”
The law was brought in in March 2021. In January of that year, Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia. In February, Facebook briefly blocked users from sharing news and other links on the platform. In the process, it also silenced some emergency services, and reportedly removed posts from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, state health departments, emergency and crisis services, etc.
Australia’s then Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, had said in response, “They may be changing the world, but that doesn’t mean they should run it. We will not be intimidated by this act of bullying by BigTech, seeking to pressure parliament as it votes on our important News Media Bargaining Code…”
Over a year on, how effective has the law been?
In a report released on December 1, the Australian government said it was “reasonable to conclude that the Code has been a success to date.”
“Over 30 commercial agreements between digital platforms (Google and Meta) and a cross section of Australian news businesses have been struck, agreements that were highly unlikely to have been made without the Code,” the review report said.