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Australia to make Google and Facebook share ad revenue with news agencies

Australia has said it will force digital platforms like Google and Facebook to share their advertising funds with news organisations as they struggle with falling revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that draft rules will be introduced in July that will make tech giants pay fair compensation for the journalistic content displayed on their platforms.

The move follows attempts to create a voluntary code that was ultimately rejected by both Google and Facebook.

“We understand the challenge that we face, this is a big mountain to climb,” Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra. “These are big companies that we are dealing with but there is also so much at stake, so we’re prepared for this fight.”

He said that Australia could succeed where other countries, including France and Spain, had failed in making Google and Facebook pay.

“We won’t bow to their threats,” he said.

The country's competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is working on a mandatory code of conduct between media outlets and digital platforms after talks stalled on the content payment rules.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Australia would take a different approach from Europe, relying on competition law rather than copyright law.

Google and Facebook said they had been working to the ACCC November deadline to negotiate a voluntary code.

“We’re disappointed by the government’s announcement, especially as we’ve worked hard to meet their agreed deadline,” said Facebook managing director for Australia and New Zealand Will Easton.

“Covid-19 has impacted every business and industry across the country, including publishers, which is why we announced a new, global investment to support news organisations at a time when advertising revenue is declining,” he added, referring to a $100m investment in the news industry announced in March.

Google said it had engaged with more than 25 Australian publishers to get their input on a voluntary code.

“We have sought to work constructively with industry, the ACCC and government to develop a code of conduct, and we will continue to do so in the revised process set out by the government today,” a Google statement said.

Frydenberg said the mandatory code will include sharing of data, ranking and display of news content and the sharing of revenue generated from news, adding that it would also establish penalty and binding dispute resolution mechanisms.

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