Media call to regulate Google, Facebook

Google and Facebook’s stranglehold over Australia’s struggling journalism industry must be regulated, one of the nation’s top media executives says.

A competition watchdog final report on the impact digital platforms are having on privacy, data and the news industry in Australia has been handed to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for consideration.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s preliminary report in late 2018 called for significant new powers to monitor, investigate and fine tech giants.

News Corp Australia’s corporate affairs director Campbell Reid says the playing field must be levelled between tech giants and media companies.

“At the moment they unfairly dominate advertising markets. They free ride off content created by us and others and monetise it without returning any of that revenue fairly back to us,” he told Sky News on Friday.

Media companies have long accused Google and Facebook of profiting from stolen content, which drive the clicks and views they rely on to sell ads.

“If you run any business and you use a raw material to make money, the person who provides you with the raw material deserves some payment for that,” Mr Reid said.

“Facebook and Google and the other platforms have invented businesses in which they don’t pay for the raw materials at all.”

Facebook, which claims it is not a news distribution business, has argued strongly against the ACCC’s proposals revealed so far, including a news regulator and ad regulator.

“Our view is that people, and not regulators, should decide what you see on (your) newsfeed,’ Facebook competition spokeswoman Samantha Knox said in April.

Google and Facebook use human-influenced algorithms to decide what people see when they use their services, but the tech giants argue this is different from news organisations who use editors.

The ACCC’s preliminary report made it clear the tech companies were more than just platforms.

“Organisations like Google and Facebook are more than mere distributors or pure intermediaries in the supply of news in Australia; they increasingly perform similar functions as media businesses like selecting, curating and ranking content,” watchdog chairman Rod Sims said in late 2018.

“Yet, digital platforms face less regulation than many media businesses.”

Mr Frydenberg’s office confirmed the report had been handed to the government but there is no timeline for when it will be released.

© AAP 2019