Mark Zuckerberg has failed to pay for the independent journalism that he and his businesses have benefitted from for years. Today, Australia’s news media businesses are joining forces and #WaitingOnZuck to pay up, before we lose our small and medium news media businesses.
Almost one year ago the Australian Federal Government, Department of Treasury (courtesy of Josh Frydenberg) introduced the News Media Bargaining Code. This Code aims to reduce the obscene power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms, specifically Meta and Google.
It’s true that this world-leading Code has been a significant step in the right direction…it even caused a bit of a global ruckus, ruffling the feathers of many big tech leaders. The issue is that the digital platforms have made a bunch of commercial-in-confidence (AKA ‘secret deals’) that have exacerbated the massive competitive disadvantage, significantly impacting the ‘little guys’ of this vital industry - small and medium news businesses like us.
We are the independent publishers who not only deliver important news and information, but in many ways form part of the backbone of communities by celebrating diversity, shining a light on local heroes, nurturing our unique interests and sharing the stories that help us to feel seen, heard and represented in Australia.
Australians have taken this issue seriously. Showing their support for small and medium publishers in droves and enraged when Meta tried to yet again control the media landscape by disabling the sharing of any Australian news links.
But the Australian public can only take this David and Goliath battle so far and the launch of the Code was only the tip of the iceberg for creating the change needed.
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We know that Josh Frydenberg (Treasurer of Australia) is prepared to go the extra mile - heck he even reached out for a chat directly with Mr Zuck. Letting him know that we won’t be backing down, because the sustainability of independent news matters to Australians, all of us.
It has been a year since the Code was launched and Meta has had more than enough time to demonstrate that they believe in paying for the quality independent journalism that their business model continues to benefit from enormously. Instead they’ve made a series of convenient deals. Deals that benefit big-tech and big-media, putting the future of small and medium publishers at risk.
Introducing this Code was a great start, but the job is a long way from being done. Right now, small and medium publishers, along with their 4 million plus readers are #WaitingOnZuck to come to the table and make real deals. Agreements with small and medium publishers that are transparent, fair and actually pay for the journalism that his businesses are built upon.
Josh Frydenberg (and the Department of Treasury) is currently reviewing the impact of the Code. Which means that Josh has an opportunity to ensure that the Code holds Meta to account and helps to build a sustainable news industry that is independent, diverse and representative of all Australians.
That’s why today news media businesses across Australia are joining forces through a collective news freeze - letting the world know that small and medium publishers are still #WaitingonZuck to pay up for the journalism that he has been benefiting from for free.