Facebook to restore Australian news pages in coming days

By Our Reporter
Photo by Tim Bennett

Social media giant Facebook has decided to reverse its decision to block Australian users sharing news on its site after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws that would make major tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.

The Government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days, according to an official joint media release from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher.

The Morrison Government will on Wednesday 23 February introduce further amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code.

These amendments will provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the Code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework for ensuring news media businesses are fairly remunerated. These amendments will make it clear that:

  • a decision to designate a platform under the Code must take into account whether a digital platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry through reaching commercial agreements with news media businesses;
  • a digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision – noting that a final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification;
  • non-differentiation provisions will not be triggered because commercial agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts or commercial outcomes that arose in the course of usual business practices; and
  • final offer arbitration is a last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months.

Importantly, the amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms, the release said.

The Explanatory Memorandum will confirm that the Code only applies to the extent a digital platform is making covered news content available through those services.

These amendments also add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the Code—a central feature of the framework that the Government is putting in place to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia, the release further stated.

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