Facebook strikes deal for return of Australian news

Headshot of Annabel Hennessy
Annabel HennessyThe West Australian
Email Annabel Hennessy
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Camera IconFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Facebook has told the Federal Government it will return its site to normal and unblock Australian news organisations after Josh Frydenberg agreed to make changes to new laws targeting the platform.

The Treasurer today announced amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which he said would provide clarity to digital platforms and news media businesses about the way the code is intended to operate.

The changes included a decision to designate a platform under the code but take into account whether the tech company has made a significant contribution to Australian journalism through commercial agreements with news companies.

A digital platform will be notified of the Government’s intention to designate prior to any final decision being made.

A final decision on whether or not to designate a digital platform would be made no sooner than one month from the date of notification.

Final offer arbitration will also be made a "last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached by requiring mediation, in good faith, to occur prior to arbitration for no longer than two months".

"Importantly, the amendments will strengthen the hand of regional and small publishers in obtaining appropriate remuneration for the use of their content by the digital platforms," Mr Frydenberg said in a statement.

"The Explanatory Memorandum will confirm that the code only applies to the extent a digital platform is making covered news content available through those services."

"These amendments also add further impetus for parties to engage in commercial negotiations outside the code – a central feature of the framework that the Government is putting in place to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced the Federal Government has reached an agreement with Facebook.
Camera IconTreasurer Josh Frydenberg has announced the Federal Government has reached an agreement with Facebook. Credit: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

"The Government has been advised by Facebook that it intends to restore Australian news pages in the coming days."

That timeline was backed up by Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton.

“We’re pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement with the Australian government and appreciate the constructive discussions we’ve had with Treasurer Frydenberg and Minister Fletcher over the past week," he said.

"We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers.

“After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.

"As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism, and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days.”

The News Media Bargaining Code was announced following an inquiry by Australia's consumer watchdog and forces tech companies to financially compensate media organisations for their content.

Facebook last week blocked Australian news sites from its platform in protest of the new laws.

Government pages and those belonging to charities were also caught up in the crossfire with pages for the domestic violence helpline and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services also temporarily blocked.

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