Meta abandons Australian news publishers

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Facebook owner Meta will not renew its deals with Australian news publishers, cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars from the industry and daring the government to enforce its media bargaining code.

The Albanese government said Meta’s decision was a “dereliction of its commitment” to Australian news media and that it is seeking advice on enforcing its News Media Bargaining Code to force new deals.

Mark Zuckerberg

Meta and Google signed deals worth an estimated $1 billion for Australian publishers over four years, with the social media giant’s set to expire this year.

On Friday afternoon, Meta confirmed speculation it will not renew the deals and will instead prioritise investments that “drive user engagement”.

The company will scrap its News tab – a dedicated spot on Facebook for news content – but still allow news content to be shared by users, including publishers.

“…news makes up less than 3 per cent of what people around the world see in their Facebook feed, and is a small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people,” the statement said.

Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones, who has responsibility for the News Media Bargaining Code, quickly rebuked the move and said he is seeking advice from Treasury and the competition and consumer regulator on “next steps”.

“Meta’s decision to no longer pay for news content in a number of jurisdictions represents a dereliction of its commitment to the sustainability of Australian news media,” Mr Jones said in a joint with Communications minister Michelle Rowland.

The News Media Bargaining Code came into force in 2021 but is yet to actually designate any platforms – a move that would force the digital giants to negotiate with publishers on content deals.

The mere existence of the code and threat of designation spurred deals from Meta and Google that former competition watchdog Rod Sims says are worth around $1 billion over four years.

Google is understood to be open to new deals and be in talks with publishers on ones close to expiry.

The search giant has said it has signed deals with more than 70 Australian news businesses, representing more than 200 outlets across the country.

The News Media Bargaining Code was reviewed in 2022 and endorsed as “a success to date”, with Treasury recommending it be expanded to capture more digital platforms. Some news outlets testified the code-spurred deals led to the creation of additional journalist roles and an expansion of their coverage.

Meta – then Facebook’s – original response to the code was to block news content in Australia to avoid designation.

The media laws were subsequently changed in the tech giant’s favour, including the legal requirement the government consider platform companies’ contribution to the sustainability of Australian media through commercial deals when deciding whether to designate them under the code.

Meta also gained a longer notice period for any planned designation and the inclusion of mediation before any arbitration. The tech giant promptly reintroduced news content and resumed negotiations with publishers.

Mr Jones on Friday said news media outlets deserve compensation for when their content is provided to platforms and Met’s decision was disappointing.

“The decision removes a significant source of revenue for Australian news media businesses. Australian news publishers deserve fair compensation for the content they provide.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment

Related stories