After much back and forth, it’s happening. The Federal Government said it will vote on its controversial news media bargaining code next week, which could force Facebook and Google to negotiate about paying for news from publishers in Australia.
On Friday afternoon, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communication Minister Paul Fletcher said that Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 was ready to go.
Welcoming a report from the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, the pair said they were pushing ahead with the legislation despite the continued objections by Facebook and Google.
The Morrison Government welcomes the report from the Senate Economics Legislation Committee which recommends no changes to legislation to establish the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code @JoshFrydenberg @PaulFletcherMP #auspol pic.twitter.com/sw0TISI1kB— Political Alert (@political_alert) February 12, 2021
“The purpose of the Code is to address the bargaining power imbalance identified by the ACCC between digital platforms and news media businesses in order to support a diverse and sustainable Australian news media sector, including Australia’s public broadcasters,” the press release said.
The statement alludes to the threat that Facebook and Google carry out their threat to withdraw some of their services from the market.
“The Government expects all parties to continue to work constructively towards reaching commercial agreements in the spirit of collaboration and good faith encouraged by the code,” it said.
The report from the Senate Economics Legislation Committee recommended that the law should be passed, while acknowledging that there were concerns raised about the code and its potential risks.
While calling for a review in a year, the report concluded that there was widespread support for the intention of the bill, even if almost all parties consulted wanted some changes to the law.
“Further, while some submitters have questioned the methods and recommended additional refinements, there is a strong view that large multinational technology companies—in this case Google and Facebook—should not remain outside sensible regulations that protect the public interest.”
With the Senate being the hurdle for the government — who holds a majority in the other house of Parliament — next week’s vote will determine whether this law forcing the tech giants to pay for news will come into force or not.