US wants Australia to drop news payment plan for tech giants

US wants Australia to drop news payment plan for tech giants

Australia intends to force Google and Facebook to pay local media organisations for hosting news content or face millions of dollars in fines.
Australia intends to force Google and Facebook to pay local media organisations for hosting news content or face millions of dollars in fines.

SYDNEY: The United States wants Australia to abandon its plan to force Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for their news content, saying there could be "long-lasting negative consequences" for consumers and companies.

Australia intends to force the US tech giants to pay local media organisations for hosting news content or face millions of dollars in fines, in one of the most aggressive moves globally to check their power.

It will apply to Facebook's "News Feed" and Google searches, prompting the digital firms to threaten to limit the services they offer Australians.

In a submission to an Australian Senate inquiry in the draft legislation, the Office of the US Trade Representative called it a "burdensome" plan that will "exclusively target" two American companies "without having first established a violation of existing Australian law or a market failure".

"The US government is concerned that an attempt, through legislation, to regulate the competitive positions of specific players in a fast-evolving digital market, to the clear detriment of two US firms, may result in harmful outcomes," the submission says.

"There may also be long-lasting negative consequences for US and Australian firms, as well as Australian consumers."

The submission, dated January 15, argues the plan's mandatory arbitration process to determine compensation for news businesses is "fundamentally imbalanced" in their favour, as news production costs must be considered but not the costs incurred by digital platforms.

It also says the world-first rules "could raise concerns with respect to Australia's international trade obligations" by excluding foreign media from the compensation scheme.

The US submission urges Australia to suspend its legislative push to implement the rules this year to allow for more research and if necessary embrace a voluntary code of conduct instead.

"Australia should again consider promoting a voluntary code of conduct supported by, as appropriate, targeted regulations developed in an open and transparent process," it says.

Canberra's initiative has been closely watched around the globe, as news media worldwide suffer in an increasingly digital economy where advertising revenue is overwhelmingly captured by big tech firms.

It has received broad support from Australian media organisations, with many also being hit hard by a drop in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

The US federal and state governments meanwhile have launched a series of antitrust proceedings against Google and Facebook.

The Australian Senate inquiry is due to begin public hearings on Friday.

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (6)

Yala to open new airport in April

The new Betong Airport in the southernmost province of Yala is slated to open in April, with Nok Air expected to be the first airline to launch daily flights to and from Bangkok when it opens, the airport’s acting director, Duangporn Suvanmanee, said on Tuesday.

20:48

Warrants out for singer-protester Ammy, 2 others

The Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for an anti-government protester and two others on serious charges ranging from arson to royal defamation after the burning of a portrait of His Majesty the King.

20:31

PM denies report of 'vaccines first for VIPs' in Chiang Mai

The government insisted Covid-19 vaccines are not being distributed to special privilege groups, following an unsubstantiated report of a VIP group in Chiang Mai province receiving the jabs first.

19:48