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From the Editors

Publishers take on Facebook and Google for failing to pay up under the News Media Bargaining Code

Screenshot of Facebook website
Facebook has refused to negotiate with a number of Australian publishers. Shutterstock

You might have noticed on Tuesday this week 30 media outlets did not publish any news articles as part of a coordinated protest.

A group of mid-sized publishers took this action because Facebook and Google have refused to pay for their work under the News Media Bargaining Code, a new law introduced last year to force the tech giants to pay for public interest journalism.

Deals made under the law are shrouded in secrecy, but we know that so far millions of dollars have been directed to big media players such as New Corp, Seven, Nine, ACM, The Guardian and the ABC. This has been good for journalism and has created many new reporting jobs.

But a perverse outcome is the law helps the biggest media players while shutting out smaller and not-for-profit companies. Not ideal in a country that already has a huge problem with highly concentrated media ownership.

Facebook has refused to deal with dozens of smaller independent media operations and even large outlets like SBS and The Conversation. Google has done more deals but has also cut out some smaller publishers.

The tech giants are betting no one will care enough about the little guys to kick up a fuss. But under the new laws the Government can force Facebook and Google to come to the table through a process called “designation”, and that’s what the publishers are lobbying for.

It’s a cause worth supporting. In Australia we face a deluge of disinformation and misinformation on social media, in addition to some of the most concentrated media in the world. Anything that provides an opportunity for more accurate stories to be told is vitally important to the health of our democracy. Stories such as the under-reported one about the small publishers who have been left out in the cold.

For more information, visit the #WaitingOnZuck website and download an action kit, email Josh Frydenberg or try your luck contacting Mark Zuckerberg.

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