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Facebook resumes news for Australians after media bargaining deal

  • 25 Feb 2021

Facebook followed Google in agreeing to negotiate paid arrangements with Australian media, leading the government to water down the arbitration requirements.

The Google and Facebook logos, the words "media, news, media" and the Australian flag are displayed in this illustration photo taken February 18, 2021. ( Reuters )

Facebook has restored access to news for its Australian users after reaching agreement with the government on a landmark law requiring it and other tech firms to pay for journalistic content.

The Facebook pages of Australian news outlets were able to update from early on Friday morning for the first time in a week, since the social media slapped a ban on news content being seen Down Under in a dispute over the law which was adopted Thursday.

Facebook and Google, the two companies targeted by the regulation, strongly objected to clauses requiring them to submit to mandatory arbitration over the amount they would have to pay local media to show Australian news on their platforms and search results.

READ MORE: Facebook pledges $1B investments to support journalism

Negotiations with Australian media

To avoid being hit by the arbitration, Google negotiated multi-million dollar content licensing deals with a host of Australian companies, and notably the country's two biggest news organisations: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Nine Entertainment.

Facebook, which relies less on news in its business model, responded on February 18 by blocking access to Australian news for all its users.

The move also hit many non-media Facebook pages, including for governmental emergency services, health organisations and charities, prompting widespread outrage.

Facebook eventually followed Google in agreeing to negotiate paid arrangements with Australian media, leading the government to water down the arbitration requirements in the so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

READ MORE:Facebook to restore Australian news pages after deal reached on media law

'Premium journalism'

In announcing the end of its news blackout, Facebook said it "looks forward to continuing to work with the industry to find the best ways to support news."

The firm also announced possible deals with three independent media companies Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media.

The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said.

“These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the statement said.

Schwartz Media chief executive Rebecca Costello said the deal would help her company continue to produce independent journalism.

“It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” Costello said in the Facebook statement.

Private Media chief executive Will Hayward said the new deal built on an existing Facebook partnership.

READ MORE: Australia freezes Facebook ads amid new Covid-19 vaccine media blitz

Content payment

The agreements marked a new foray into content payment for Facebook and Google, who became two of the world's largest and most profitable companies largely by organising, curating and indexing others' content cost-free.

Facebook and Google have each said they will invest around US$1 billion in news around the world over the next three years.

Google will pay for news content that appears on its "Showcase" product and Facebook is expected to pay providers who appear on its "News" feature, which is to be rolled out in Australia later this year.

READ MORE: Facebook blocks Australians from sharing news on platform

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