Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believes the federal government and tech giants Google and Facebook are close to reaching an agreement on how to move forward with the imminent legislation that would make the News Media Bargaining Code become law.
“I’ve been talking to both Facebook and Google over the course of the weekend, as well as working with the Prime Minister and Minister Fletcher, and the media proprietors as well,” Frydenberg told ABC AM on Monday.
“We have made great progress over the course of the weekend. I think we’re very close to some very significant commercial deals and in doing so, that will transform the domestic media landscape.”
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee gave the green light on Friday for the legislation. Its passage through the House of Representatives is slated for as early as Tuesday.
“This legislation is important and it’s our intention to pass it through the Parliament,” the Treasurer said.
The Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 [Provisions] among other things, requires tech giants — Google and Facebook in the first instance — to bargain with news outlets for remuneration to display news articles.
The bargaining code, according to the government, is necessary for addressing the fundamental bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms.
After a back and forth between both Google and Facebook and the federal government, Google last month threatened to pull its search engine from Australia.
Frydenberg said, over the weekend, he spoke with both Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet.
“They are very focused on what is happening here in Australia but I sense they are also trying to reach deals and that is welcome because both the media proprietors and the digital giants, I think, recognise that we have something that is workable here in Australia — something that we can take forward, something that can ensure a sustainable media landscape, and something that will see journalism continued and journalists rewarded for generating original content,” he said.
Failing the government reaching an agreement with the tech giants, Microsoft has signalled its enthusiasm to step up and have its search engine Bing fill the Google-sized hole left in Australian search engine landscape.