The News Media Bargaining Code

In response to the call of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, (ACCC). The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Barbegaining Code was create in early 2015. It was design to strengthen the government’s ability to address the power imbalance between Australian news media platforms and businesses.

It was a complicated negotiation process that involved a three-way. Tug of war between the government, digital platforms, and news media. Organisations such as The Conversation and SBS have strongly criticised the code. Claiming that they missed out on deals despite falling under its definition of news.

A second concern is the $150,000 threshold that must met by smaller or regional news businesses to be eligible under the code.

The Department of the Treasury will begin reviewing the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Arbitration Code legislation in early 2022 to determine if it is still fit for purpose and if digital platforms can contribute to the sustainability of the Australian media industry.

How Will Media Accomplish This?

The code has not yet been used to identify digital platforms. The treasurer may not designate Google and Facebook if they are satisfied that they have contributed adequately to the Australian news sector.

A variety of commercial content agreements have been reach between Facebook, Google and news organizations outside the law. Their content can found on Google News Showcase or Facebook News Tab. There is no comprehensive list, but media coverage and company announcements reveal that deals have made with The Guardian Australia and Junkee, News Corp Australia and Schwartz Media.

These deals commercial-in-confidence, so very little known about how much they worth, how the money spent and how effective they will in supporting news businesses.

One, news organizations that have signed deals with Google and Facebook have made announcements about the possibility of hiring more journalists.

Media Announcements About Job Cuts

However, some companies have made announcements about job cuts and reductions in print services, even though they had struck deals with the platforms. It is unclear how these commercial deals have affected business decisions due to the lack of transparency. Difficult to predict the long-term effects of these content agreements on sustainability and the contribution to an Australian news ecosystem.

It will take a lot of work to review the code. The University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC), held a Chatham House Rules roundtable discussion with representatives of platforms, government, and the community to explore potential options.

It was intend to identify research gaps to inform future media policy. One of the most important topics was the bargaining code. We have developed a set of indicators that will monitor the impact of commercial content agreements on news business sustainability and the health of wider news environments.

Reflect The Different

Different indicators are require to reflect the different accountabilities of each of the key players. News companies, digital platforms and government. Some indicators are easily measure from outside. Other indicators will require collaboration from independent researchers.

To estimate the impact of voluntary content agreements on news industry, indicators could include:

  • Changes in the number and composition of journalists and other staff
  • News outlets may be close, contracted or expand.
  • The amount of investment made in staff and cadet training.

Another important measure would be to track public interest journalism content volume, readership, subscription, and membership numbers. Longer term indicators of industry health will include graduate employment outcomes and enrolments in journalism programs.