News Media Bargaining Code passed – what does this mean for search engines and Australian news providers?

coffee cup and saucer on top of a newspaper

Recently, numerous news articles have been published highlighting the significance of the Australian Parliament passing the News Media Bargaining Code. What does this really mean?

What is it?

The Australian Parliament passed a bill called the Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 (‘the Code’). It was done to direct large media platforms, such as Facebook and Google to pay to use news content on their websites. In doing so, the market Australian Competition and Consumer Competition (‘ACCC’) hopes it will restore balance to the bargaining power imbalance between tech giants and news media organisations. 

How does it work?

The Code allows for an independent arbitrator to set the price that large media platforms are to pay news providers if commercial negotiations between the parties are not successful. The Government will give one month’s notice for tech giants to comply voluntarily, before the choice to appoint an arbitrator is likely to be exercised by Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg. News businesses may sign up to be paid for their content on search engines or social media, provided their revenue is upwards of $150,000 annually and they produce ‘core news content’. 

Core news content is defined in the code as “content that reports, investigates or explains (a) issues or events that are relevant in engaging Australians in public debate and in informing democratic decision-making; or (b) current issues or events of public significance for Australians at a local, regional or national level”. 

Amendments were made to the code after Facebook responded by banning Australian news on their platforms worldwide. These amendments allowed digital platforms to strike deals with news outlets outside of the requirements of the code. A provision was added that allows the treasurer to review whether a digital platform has reached sufficient commercial agreements with news media businesses before making them subject to the code. 

Do the tech giants agree?

Facebook and Google have both been quick to voice their views criticising the Code, with Facebook banning news content in Australia temporarily and Google saying it would shut down its services in Australia. They argue that payment of the news organisations is unnecessary, since their platforms are responsible for driving large amounts of website traffic to the news outlets. 

Google has since entered deals with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Seven West Media and is likely close to meeting the requirements of sufficient commercial deals to escape being bound by the Code under the new amendments introduced by the treasurer. 

What do Australian news organisations think?

Many believe that the Code will address the power imbalance between local news organisations and tech giants. It is likely to promote sustainability in news media businesses by ensuring they are fairly remunerated for their content. Moreover, the Code requires tech giants to disclose changes in algorithms to allow news organisations to better understand this impact and the stories being displayed.

How does this change affect businesses?

Publishing and journalism businesses will continue to be affected by tech giants boycotting Australian News. This was shown when Facebook blocked all Australian news content on its platform for a period of time in an attempt to get the Australian government to amend the code.

The bargaining code will put news outlets in a better position to be fairly paid due to the existence of an instrument that enforces the bargaining powers between tech giants and news media businesses. The current situation in Australia is the first of its kind worldwide and has sparked interest from many other countries. It could likely set a precedent for how other countries will regulate Big Tech, with France, Canada and the rest of the European Union expressing that they may follow suit.

How can we help? 

To better understand if you meet the requirements of the Media Bargaining Code and implement it the most efficiently, click here to book a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our highly experienced solicitors today. Alternatively, contact us at or call 1300 988 954. 

The above information may have been collected from relevant government websites and other sources and is subject to change. For the latest information regarding new or amended legislation, please refer to state and federal government websites.

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