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Australia Considers Legislation to Force Google, Facebook to Pay for News Media's Journalism

FILE - This combination of file photos shows a Google sign and the Facebook app.
FILE - This combination of file photos shows a Google sign and the Facebook app.

The Australian parliament is due Wednesday to consider legislation that would require technology firms such as Google and Facebook to pay for journalism provided by news organizations.

For years, traditional media companies in Australia have complained that social media platforms benefit from their quality reporting without paying for it.

The government in Canberra believes that regulation is needed and is introducing new legislation into parliament. It is unlikely to pass until the new year.

Australia wants tech heavyweights Google and Facebook to negotiate with broadcasters and publishers to agree how much they will pay to use news stories online. The fee would be worked out by the two parties.

If a deal can not be struck, both sides would be forced into arbitration, where a decision would be made for them.

The only two digital platforms included so far are Google Search and Facebook NewsFeed, but Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg would have the power to add others to the list if they become big enough players in the market.

“This is a huge reform," he said. "This is a world first and the world is watching what happens here in Australia. But our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world.”

The government says print media in Australia has seen advertising revenues fall by 75% since 2005. The market is dominated by Google and Facebook, which have opposed the legislation. They have argued that traditional media outlets have overlooked the benefit they receive from referrals and clicks through to their websites.

Facebook has said previously it would remove Australian news content from its platform altogether, arguing it did not contribute much to its revenue. The company also said it supported journalism in Australia through grants and funding.

Facebook Australia said it would review the draft legislation when it was published.

Google advertisements in Australia have insisted the laws would be damaging.