Inquiry to probe Meta as News renews Google, reports change

May 10, 2024 at 01:53 pm by admin

Hot-foot from LINA’s summit in North Queensland, Australia’s federal communications minister Michelle Rowland has announced an inquiry to probe issues around Meta’s decision to abandon payment-for-content deals with publishers.

The announcement comes as publishers such as News Corp are announcing new agreements with Google – believed to be worth as much as A$6 million – the search giant’s position thought to be strengthened by Meta’s withdrawal.

Rowland (pictured) opened the PING-focussed Local and Independent News Association’s two-day conference in Port Douglas last week.

Today she announced a joint parliamentary select committee to investigate the consequences of Meta opting not to renew deals for news, and the role news and public interest journalism has in helping counter misinformation and disinformation on digital platforms.

She said she was waiting on advice from treasury and the ACCC on whether it “can or should” designate Meta under the news bargaining media code, forcing it to negotiate payments for the use of content.

It will also look at publication of harmful and illegal material on Meta’s social media platforms. Their “vital role” had allowed the behemoth companies including Meta to have “enormous reach and control over what Australians see, with little to no ­scrutiny”.

Minister Rowland said it was imperative that Australians had access to quality public interest journalism, including on social media. “Unilateral decisions to undermine news hurts us all – social media companies have social responsibilities. They need to be more accountable and transparent.”

Assistant treasurer and minister for financial services Stephen Jones also criticised the social media giants, adding that they “seem more determined to wipe trusted news sources from their platforms than scammers and other criminals.

“This will open the floodgates for misinformation and disinformation.”

He called on them to ‘be better’ and ‘do better’.

“The committee will put big tech under the microscope to help create a safer online environment”.

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson announced the extension of its “partnership” with Google during presentation of its third-quarter results. He reported profits “rose slightly” in the three months to the end of March 31, claiming the company was “firmly on a pathway to continued success”.

Total segment EBITDA lifted one per cent to $US322 million (A$490 million) in the third quarter, up from $US320 million in the previous year.

Thomson said digital revenue had accounted for more than half of total revenues for more than a year.

“We are in the midst of an exponential digital revolution, and our own company has continued to change significantly and profitably.”

Increases in the cost of property in Australia had underpinned the 15 per cent year-on-year revenue growth of real estate platform REA Group, to $US256 million in the third quarter.

A ten per cent revenue dip by ten per cent at News Corp Australia was blamed on a soft advertising market and currency fluctuations, although circulation and subscription revenues lifted by $US1 million compared to the previous year.

Thomson told investors advertising – which accounted for more than half of its revenue a decade ago – amounted now to only for eight per cent, “and half of that figure is now digital advertising, so the character of the company has fundamentally changed”.

Sections: Digital business


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