Meta and ACCC in holding pattern

Jason Pollock
By Jason Pollock | 9 May 2024
Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash.

Competition regulator ACCC is getting closer to reporting its findings to the federal government on whether there is a significant bargaining power imbalance between Meta and Australian news media companies.

The ACCC told AdNews that delivering the advice was a "high priority".

"We are aiming to provide this advice as soon as practicable," a ACCC spokesperson said.

Meta has decided not renew its agreements to pay local publishers for news appearing on Facebook. They can continue posting but they won’t get paid.

A Meta spokesperson said the social media platform had "no change" to report.

"You can still access news on your feed. We are waiting for the ACCC to complete the review; nothing has changed," the spokesperson told AdNews.

The federal government is assessing whether to use the news media bargaining code to force Meta to negotiate with publishers or face huge fines. The code can apply fines of up to 10% of annual turnover for failing to bargain with publishers in good faith.  

Meta sees the point of Facebook as social interaction, not a news platform.

And the number of people using Facebook News in Australia and the US has dropped by more than 80% last year, says Meta.

Major publishing groups are pushing Canberra to take action against Meta. However, some smaller digital news sites are worried this will push Meta to block all news, causing a steep drop in referral traffic from Facebook.

Broadsheet founder and publisher Nick Shelton said his publication believes that Meta should have commercial deals with all eligible publishers and should allow for publishers to connect with their audiences on Meta platforms.

"This is the 'first principle’ that the NMBC was built on and should remain the first principle," he said.

"We believe that Meta should face serious consequences for flouting the laws and regulations of Australia. A market they generate substantial revenue from and where they pay little tax."

Shelton said that if designation leads to Meta blocking news it will have adverse consequences for audiences - who will have poorer access to professionally reported news and information - and publishers, especially independent publishers. 

"We believe the government should be looking at alternative means of achieving the principles of the news media bargaining code, including ‘Must Carry' provisions to the legislation where Meta are legally required to carry news and a ‘Platform Tax’ that Meta won’t be able to avoid," he told AdNews.

"Meta have demonstrated again and again that publishers and creators don't benefit from investing in their ecosystem. Broadsheet is focused on making sure that our website, app, and newsletters are the best way to experience Broadsheet. 

"We will continue to build our video audiences on TikTok and YouTube." 

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