News organizations aren’t getting their share of the revenue their content helps generate. And a healthy democracy depends on healthy journalism. The Australian government has developed an innovative proposal that would require tech gatekeepers like Facebook and Google to share search revenue with local independent news organizations. Their approach is a potential model for other countries, too.
Google threatened to pull its search service out of Australia. Microsoft has endorsed the Australian proposal and committed that its Bing search service would remain in the country. Microsoft is also prepared to share revenue with news organizations under the rules that Google and Facebook are rejecting.
On Feb. 11, Microsoft President Brad Smith explained why the issue is so important, and argued that the Australian proposal deserves serious consideration in other countries, including the U.S.
Here’s what people, including those in government and the news media, in Australia and around the world, have said in recent months about the problem, the Australian proposals and Microsoft’s suggestion that those proposals might be a model for the world:
“The vital role independent journalism plays in our society has been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. We welcome the progress made by the Australian government and regulators to create a sustainable ecosystem for news and hope the measures outlined in the new legislation can be implemented as quickly as possible.”
– Lynne Anderson, Deputy CEO of the U.K.’s News Media Association, which represents local, regional and national news publishers
“News is not free and has never been,” he said in the statement Thursday. “Our position is clear: publishers must be adequately compensated for their work and we will support them as they deliver essential information for the benefit of our democracy and the health and well-being of our communities.”
“We only have to look south of the border to see what happens when real news companies disappear, and social media platforms distribute divisive, fake news. We need to support healthy, independent, diverse news companies as the backbone of our democracy. This is urgent. It’s a fact that news companies across Canada are going out of business. COVID-19 is accelerating the decline. Journalism jobs are disappearing. That means real news keeps disappearing and hate and fake news will be all that’s left to distribute. Let’s not let this happen in Canada. But there is good news. Australia has figured out the solution.”
– John Hinds, President and CEO of News Media Canada, an industry association representing Canadian publishers, in an open letter to Members of Parliament
“Alex Saliba, a Maltese MEP who led the parliament’s first report on the DSA, said the Australian approach to Google and Facebook had managed to address ‘the acute bargaining power imbalances’ with publishers. “With their dominant market position in search, social media and advertising, large digital platforms create power imbalances and benefit significantly from news content,” he said. ‘I think it is only fair that they pay back a fair amount.’”
Responding to the article, Valdo Lehari Jr. who is vice president of the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association, said in a statement:
“I wholeheartedly welcome this week’s statements from the European Parliament. They sent a clear message from Brussels: ‘it is time for Google & Co to negotiate on fair terms with publishers in Europe for the use of their content. Experience has shown that the gatekeepers have to be rigorously taken up on their promises and their obligation to comply with the new legal framework, by legislative means if need be, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Publishers’ Right. Australia has now shown us one way forward, which we should also carefully assess at European Union level.”
Read more about Microsoft’s endorsement of Australia’s proposal on technology and the news and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.