New Daily, sports media could miss out under digital code
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New Daily, sports media could miss out under digital code

Publishers such as AFL Media and NRL Media and The New Daily could be ineligible to receive payments from Google and Facebook under a newly proposed code, because of the way news media businesses will be classified.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has proposed four requirements that companies must meet to be able to participate in negotiations with tech giants and receive compensation for news content. Eligibility is based on the amount of revenue a company makes, the type of content they publish, the size of local audiences and the standards that they uphold.

ACCC chair Rod Sims unveiled the new code that will force Google and Facebook to pay for news content last week.

ACCC chair Rod Sims unveiled the new code that will force Google and Facebook to pay for news content last week.Credit:Edwina Pickles

Most news publishers such as Nine Entertainment Co (owner of this masthead), News Corp Australia, Australian Community Media and smaller publishers like Private Media will be eligible, but the guidelines currently exclude publishers owned by lobby groups or unions and those with a commercial interest in the coverage being produced, such as a sport.

New Daily is owned by Industry Super Holdings, but has an independence charter to separate news content from its owners, while AFL Media and NRL Media are owned by their respective sports codes. The AFL was criticised last week for standing down a reporter that had reported the identity of Brooke Cotchin, the wife of Richmond captain Trent Cotchin, who was at the centre of Richmond's COVID-19 breach.

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ACCC chair Rod Sims said the decision will ultimately be up to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) , but are in place to manage cases that could be "borderline".

"The dominant point is that...provided you have some online presence, you are covered," he said. "The whole reason of having ACMA there and having a test is to consider cases that might be considered borderline. The vast bulk of journalists will be working for organisations covered by [the requirements]."

"I don't want to get into who is in and who is out, but what you don't want is someone who is producing news that supports all their causes - you want some objectivity. I wouldn't complicate it too much and more will get through the gate on that test. It's just to make sure that someone who owns something and it's not really news - it's just something that suits their interests - then they won't get through."

Under the ACCC's proposed code, made public on Friday, Google and Facebook will have three months to negotiate revenue-sharing deals with media companies before independent arbitrator are called in to impose a compulsory arrangement. Publishers will be able to negotiate directly with the tech giants or work together in groups to receive payment. The platforms will potentially face hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for breaches of the code.

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Publishers such as Bauer Media (owner of Woman's Day, New Idea and WHO), which predominantly produce stories about entertainment could also be ineligible under a separate 'content test'.

The proposed code said that the majority of news content created by a publisher must be 'core' content - which is defined as stories created by a journalist that record, investigate or explain issues of significance to Australians, to public debate or that relate to communities. If the majority of a publishers' content is 'covered' - stories about sports matches or entertainment - they are likely to be excluded.

"The core gets you through the gate. Once you get through the gate, it's really anything that is produced by a journalist. That could be sports reporting, arts reporting," Mr Sims said. "There are some borderline cases, but that's what ACMA will have to decide."

Publishers will also be required to turn over more than $150,000 annually or to have had annual revenue in at least three of the five previous financial years of more $150,000. They will also need to have follow some form of professional standard or code - such as the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice or rules overseen by Australian Press Council - and will need to serve an Australian audience.

Mr Sims said he does not anticipate that the final code, which is subject to consultation, will differ from the version released last week.

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