Comments to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Regarding Its Draft Mandatory Bargaining Code for News Media and Digital Platforms

Daniel Castro Ashley Johnson August 27, 2020
August 27, 2020

The digital revolution has left an impact on virtually every sector of the economy, forcing industries to transform and adapt to a new environment. Many industries, including the news industry, have faced challenges adapting to the changes brought about by the Internet. News aggregating websites and apps like Google News, Apple News, Yahoo News, and Flipboard have proven instrumental in getting publishers’ content in front of an audience, generating billions of clicks that lead to millions of dollars in advertising and subscription revenue. Not only is this relationship mutually beneficial for publishers and aggregators, it also benefits users, who get access to an unprecedented amount of diverse viewpoints and quality reporting, which, as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) correctly asserts, is vital for a well-functioning democracy.

The draft Mandatory Bargaining Code for News Media and Digital Platforms is predicated around the false idea that news aggregators take advantage of news publishers. For example, in its explanatory materials, the ACCC states that there is a “fundamental bargaining power imbalance between Australian businesses and each of Google and Facebook” that is “undermining the ability and incentives for Australian news businesses to produce news content.” These statements suggest the ACCC does not correctly recognize the enormous benefit publishers derive from aggregators’ services.