Last night I addressed the Senate on the Media Bargaining Code legislation.
This bill firmly sits within the liberal tradition in Australia to act in the public interest where markets have failed to do so. As I said in my first speech to the Senate: “We support enterprise. We believe in markets. And we believe in some regulation of industry.
We believe markets must serve the public interest.” Theodore Roosevelt set this philosophy out best following the 1902 Coal Strike saying: “but when either employee or employer, labouring man or capitalist, goes wrong, I have to clinch him, and that’s all there is to it.” Ultimately big tech companies are lightly regulated compared to other commercial utilities like telco, banks and energy companies. I don’t believe in regulation for regulation’s sake but there is a clear need to intervene because of failure of the Big Tech companies to deliver commercial deals with media outlets. Without these deals, public interest journalism is at risk in Australia - which is unacceptable in a liberal democracy.
The bargaining imbalance is a direct consequence of the monopolistic position which exists. The ACCC has reported that of every $100 spent on online advertising in Australia, $50 goes to Google and $25 to Facebook. The media bargaining code is one initial intervention - there may need to be more unless Big Tech cleans up its backyard. It is sitting upon large volumes of material which breaches incitement and defamation laws. The spectre of the code has already delivered commercial deals - just as we have seen in other jurisdictions like France. I pay credit to Google for delivering commercial deals with major publishers.
I am concerned about small, independent publishers which I will pursue with the Big Tech platforms. Last week our legislation exposed Facebook’s arrogance, which by turning off community and charity information has only highlighted their immense market power. Facebook’s actions also reminded Australians that news is available directly on websites and applications on phones.
The government spends $1 billion each year to provide freely available news to the community via the ABC. Free news is also available from news.com.au and the Guardian for instance. More work is required to clean up Big Tech, which sits upon a sewer of material which breaches our laws on incitement and defamation. Its historical response has been that “it is not a publisher”.
This is now laughable. Big tech has underlined its status as a publisher during the pandemic. It has removed people and posts from its platforms, it has also edited the news and it has switched off community and charitable information at will. If Big Tech can remove charitable information, it can ensure their platforms comply with our laws.
MEDIA | John Mangos | 0401 392 624