Urgent need for a mandatory news content code
There is an urgent need for a News Media Bargaining Code if media outlets are to be saved, says the journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA). The government has said it will legislate for the code to be mandatory to make digital platforms compensate for news content they have been using for free. The compensation will go some way towards providing a sustainable future for public interest journalism in Australia.
In its submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s options paper regarding the development of the code, MEAA said the decade of job losses that have imperilled Australia’s news media industry has meant only swift action can rescue media outlets that are struggling for survival.
MEAA has called for a clear timetable for discussions about developing the mandatory code between the news media and the digital platforms.
MEAA noted that media outlets are struggling. Revenues, particularly advertising income, have declined sharply as the digital disruption leads to audience fragmentation – readers and viewers are switching to the giant digital platforms. Google and Facebook, on the other hand, have enjoyed a massive surge in advertising income and market share. For every $100 spent by online advertisers, $47 goes to Google and $24 to Facebook.
MEAA Media section federal president Marcus Strom said: “Since January 2019 more than 200 broadcast and print newsrooms have closed temporarily or for good. So far in 2020, COVID-19 has contributed to the suspension or permanent closure of more than 100 newspaper mastheads, many of them in regional Australia. We estimate that the Australian media is on track to lose a further 1000 editorial jobs this year alone.
“The impact of this sudden and massive decline in Australian media is profound. It means that communities have lost their local voice and there is less scrutiny of powerful interests,” Strom said.
MEAA said the mandatory code needs to be narrowly defined. It must settle on a common value for news content; agree on mechanisms to measure the use of the content by Google and Facebook and then a defined payment system should be agreed upon. MEAA says this could be done via a collection agency.
The code should apply to the creation of defined news content regardless of the size or scale of the content creator. This could range from a freelancer or blogger up to the biggest media houses.
MEAA hopes the parties to the code will negotiate in good faith to produce a code that is fair and equitable.
MEAA’s submission can be viewed here.