Visible Hands: Crikey, What’s the News? 🐨
A new draft code in Australia could shake up how media and tech platforms interact if it’s approved in December.
New proposed legislation in Australia could shake up how media and tech platforms interact if it’s approved in December.
In July, Australia made an announcement that few heard about in the US. They proposed a code that would change the economics of media, Google and Facebook in Australia. Google and Facebook would no longer be able to host news content for free. The two tech companies would instead negotiate with for-profit media companies to determine a profit sharing model that worked for each party, with an arbitrator in place if they couldn’t agree. Any time an article was posted on Facebook, the media organization would get a little money. Any time Google had a snippet with a result for a news article, the news organization would get a little money. In addition, Facebook and Google would need to disclose significant changes to their ranking algorithms that relate to news to the affected parties.
One reason? In Australia, 157 news organizations have seen closures since January 2019.
Notably, the policy in place would only impact for-profit journalism, leading one senator, Sarah Hanson-Young to say: “If the government wants to save journalism in Australia, then they need to deliver more than a sugar hit to Murdoch.” (Rupert Murdoch, Australian-born owner of Fox News and many other global conservative outlets.) Some have criticized Australia’s government for unfriendly policies towards investigative journalism.
In late August, Facebook and Google responded to Australia's proposed code. Facebook has argued that “over the first five months of 2020 we sent 2.3 billion clicks from Facebook’s News Feed back to Australian news websites at no charge – additional traffic worth an estimated $200 million AUD to Australian publishers.” However, one Australian media company, Nine, believes Facebook and Google should compensate media companies up to $432 million (US) in exchange for using their content. Facebook also said they “invest millions of dollars in Australian news businesses” and would prefer instead to bring Facebook News to Australia, a content feature that pays publishers for the news that has existed in the US for a year and has plans to be rolled out in the next year to Germany, France, UK, India and Brazil.
Facebook said that rather than negotiate with media properties, it would take news off of their platform in Australia. Australia’s lawmakers had two things to say about that: 1) not cool, we’ll write a law worse for you (i.e. a digital tax) if you avoid this and hurt news publishers and 2) we’re not backing down.
In the past, other countries have not had success in inducing platforms to pay for the news content they host. In 2019, France and Germany tried to give publishers the right to negotiate with Google for its content’s use; Google got rid of snippets in search results for news in order to comply with copyright. And since then Google has struck some deals with some news organizations to license content. And in 2014, a push back to Google’s business model led to Google News’ shutdown in Spain.
Australia’s lawmakers say they’ve learned from those laws’ errors; they aren’t basing their law in copyright law and they have sought to prevent the tech platforms from punishing and down-ranking news outlets for negotiating. Stay tuned to see what happens in December, but maybe don’t get the news from your Facebook newsfeed...
As a consumer:
Australia isn’t the only place where news is struggling, but most people in the U.S. think local news is doing just fine financially. That’s not the case, however. 36,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut (out of 88,000 total journalists in the U.S.) since the pandemic. According to the Nieman Lab, “Only 14 percent [of Americans] have paid for or given money to local news of any kind — print, digital, public radio pledge drive, anything — in the past year.” Buying a news subscription helps support newsrooms producing original content.
$21.8 billion in revenue is blocked each year from AdBlocker. Okay, hear us out: try not to use AdBlocker on news sites.
Rather than reading the headline on Facebook or Google search and then moving away, support the news site by clicking into the article so they get to benefit from your viewing their content.
As an employee:
If you work at a large tech platform hosting content, think about ways that your company can help news organizations be profitable (not just get traffic!) as part of the core operations. Side projects are great (seriously, they’re great!), but not the end of the story to helping news businesses exist sustainably.
As a citizen:
There’s many ways to support funding news. Just one of them is getting tech companies to pay something for the content they host on their own sites. Another potential solution is to push for more government funding of news.
As an investor:
SEC Raises Bar For Shareholder Resolutions: “Commissioners voted 3-2 to pass a final rule requiring shareholders to hold $25,000 stock for a year, up from $2,000 currently, in order to submit proposals for a vote at annual meetings. The threshold will fall to $15,000 after two years of ownership and back to $2,000 after three years.”
What Young, Healthy People Have to Fear From COVID-19: “The case for herd immunity rests on two dubious assumptions. The first is that the disease isn’t risky to the people it doesn’t kill—which we know to be false...The second dubious assumption is that it’s easy to distinguish between the high-risk group and the low-risk group.”
Stakeholder Capitalism Gets a Report Card. It’s Not Good.: “The Business Roundtable’s statement of a purpose of a corporation, released last year, was touted by prominent executives as a landmark in the evolution of corporate governance. But its signatories have done no better than other companies in protecting jobs, labor rights and workplace safety during the pandemic, while failing to distinguish themselves in pursuit of racial and gender equality, according to the study.”
Trump’s Vaccine Czar Refuses to Give Up Stock in Drug Company Involved in His Government Role: “The administration calls Moncef Slaoui, who leads its vaccine race, a “contractor” to sidestep rules against personally profiting from government positions. Slaoui owns $10 million in stock of a company working with his team to develop a vaccine.”
Making Black Banks Matter: “Black banks proliferated in the 1970s with encouragement from lawmakers and regulators. (The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s definition of a minority depository institution includes Black-owned banks—51% or more of whose stock is held by Black individuals—as well as Black-led banks, which serve a minority demographic and have boards on which more than half the directors are Black.) But the money didn’t follow.”
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