Taking time out from his new role after retiring from the ACCC, Rod Sims has criticised Facebook for its “unwillingness to engage with legitimate publishers” under Australia’s news media bargaining code.
In a report published by the Judith Neilson Institute, he warns the social media giant could face sanctions if it continues to ignore the terms of the code.
Currently a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, and chair of the steering committee of the Competition Research Policy Network at the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, Sims masterminded the legislation as chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. He is now sharing his knowledge internationally as other countries look to introduce similar codes.
While Google continues to negotiate and make deals with news publishers, Facebook (now Meta) had “inexplicably” let it be known that they had stopped making commercial deals with news businesses of the type envisaged by the news media bargaining code.
“When defining which media businesses would be eligible, the focus was on media that predominantly produced ‘core’ news,” he says. “SBS is a hybrid-funded public broadcaster, with around two thirds of its funding coming from the Australian government.
“The Conversation is a unique collaboration between academics and journalists publishing research-based news and analysis.
“Those outlets clearly qualify under the code no matter what definition you use. They are a fundamental part of core journalism in Australia, particularly the SBS.
“Not doing deals with such organisations would not seem to align with the criteria for avoiding designation. Indeed, Facebook is clearly risking future designation under the NMBC.”
The code requires a platform, if designated under its terms, to negotiate with all eligible parties. The process would lead to arbitration if no deal were reached, with penalties if the arbitrated outcome was not followed.