Public interest media join forces to seek deal with Google and Facebook

Eighteen of Australia’s small news publishers who produce public-interest journalism, are banding together, to negotiate collectively to secure commercial agreements with Google and Facebook for supply of news content on their platforms.

Called the Public Interest Publishers Alliance, these important Australian publishers, from around Australia, attract multicultural audiences, focus on issues at a local and regional level, and cover
news that affects LGBTQI communities.

The group includes valued titles such as: The Australian Jewish News, Australian Rural & Regional News, Australian Chinese Daily, OUTinPerth, Q News, Star Observer, Time
Out and more.

Only small to medium publishers who produce public-interest journalism and turn over less than $10 million per year are included in the collective bargaining action.

The collective is made possible under new rules introduced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in June allowing small, medium businesses to form a collective bargaining group without going through a costly and onerous application process.

Over the past eight months Google and Facebook have reached voluntary commercial agreements with multinational and national media organisations but have not engaged meaningfully with many smaller Australian news publishers, who also play a critical role in the creation and distribution of news content for the benefit of the Australian public.

The collective is working with Frontier Technology, an initiative of Minderoo Foundation, who will lodge the Collective Bargaining Class Exemption with the ACCC, which will allow eligible small news publishers to collectively bargain without breaching competition laws.

Graeme Watson, the co-owner of OUTinPerth said independent and community focused media needed to be supported alongside mainstream media.

“Independent small publishers provide a voice for local and underrepresented communities. It allows our communities to speak about important issues ourselves, rather than being ‘spoken about’ in the mainstream media.

“Our journalism often breaks major stories, and provides a space for crucial discourse, that the mainstream media later pick up on. Independent media connects minority communities, which has a positive effect on mental health, democratic participation and the promotion and participation in culture and the arts.

“The dominance of Facebook and Google has had a destructive impact on the ability of these businesses to be heard and survive financially. While deals have been made with media outlets owned by millionaires, true community publishers have been completely overlooked and ignored.” Graeme Watson said.

Richard Bakker, the publisher of Brisbane based Q News said small publishers were being squeezed out by complex algorithms.

“With Google and Facebook taking the Lion share of all advertising revenue to the tune of well over 5 billion dollars, the Morrison Government initiative has served the larger news outlets well.” Bakker said.

“Smaller independent public interest publishers have been largely forgotten. News and advertising are being dynamically programmed with complex algorithms and squeezing out smaller publishers. Less specialised independent journalism leads to less credible information and therefore less scrutiny and accountability.” Richard Bakker said.

Fiona Fox, Managing Editor of Australian Rural & Regional News, said despite the government’s promises that the Media Bargaining Code would help publishers, small businesses were being left out of the process.

“As a platform created specifically for the purpose of showcasing independent news from across rural and regional Australia, Australian Rural & Regional News has a particular interest in
investigating and reporting upon the success, or otherwise, of the Federal Government’s much vaunted Media Bargaining Code.

“The Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, MP, made a number of optimistic statements regarding the Code including that the Code: ‘will address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms’ and ‘The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia’  and ‘The Code will support a diverse and sustainable Australian news media sector, including Australia’s public broadcasters’ by, amongst other things, ‘encouraging the parties to undertake commercial negotiations outside the Code’.

“None of this has come to pass for the great majority of independent publishers in Australia who are producing public interest journalism on a daily basis. The Federal Government appears to believe that once the major players were paid multi-millions of dollars by Facebook and Google that the job was done. Wrong, the real work has only just begun of ensuring the maintenance of independent public interest journalism in Australia.” Fiona Fox said.

Lawrence Gibbons, publisher of the Star Observer and City Hub said that while his company had entered into a deal with Google late last week, they had no luck making contact with Facebook.

“The Star Observer and the City Hub are committed to working through the collective bargaining process to secure a content deal with Facebook. While we were fortunate to secure a deal with Google late last week, we have not had any luck reaching out to Facebook. We welcome Google’s contribution to independent, alternative and queer journalism. We encourage Google to look after other independent publishers as well. We hope Facebook becomes a better corporate citizen and supports public interest publishers big and small.” Gibbons said.

OIP Staff


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