Info-tech

Australian billionaire to help publishers strike content deal with Google, Facebook

Reuters Sydney | Updated on November 22, 2021

Andrew Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals Group   -  REUTERS

Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation said it would submit an application with the country’s competition regulator allowing the publishers to bargain without breaching competition laws.

Australian mining billionaire Andrew Forrest’s philanthropic organisation will help 18 small news publishers in the country collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook to secure licensing deals for the supply of news content.

Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation on Monday said it would submit an application with the country’s competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), allowing the publishers to bargain without breaching competition laws.

Forrest, Australia’s richest man, is the chairman and the largest shareholder of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group. He has a net worth of around A$27.2 billion ($19.7billion), according to the Australian Financial Review.

Facebook and Google have been required since March to negotiate with Australian outlets for content that drives traffic and advertising to their websites. If they don’t, the government may take over the negotiation.

Both companies have since struck licensing deals with most of Australia’s main media companies but they have not entered into agreements with many small firms. The federal government is scheduled to begin a review of the law’s effectiveness in March.

Frontier Technology, an initiative of Minderoo, said it would assist the publishers.

“Small Australian publishers who produce public interest journalism for their communities should be given the same opportunity as large publishers to negotiate for use of their content for the public benefit,” Emma McDonald, Frontier Technology’s Director of Policy, said in a statement.

A Google spokesperson responded about the initiative byre-sending an earlier statement which said “talks are continuing with publishers of all sizes.” Facebook said it “has long supported smaller independent publishers.”

The 18 small publishers include online publications that attract multicultural audiences and focus on issues at a local or regional level, McDonald said.

The move comes after ACCC late last month allowed a body representing 261 radio stations to negotiate a content deal.

News organizations, which have been losing advertising revenue to online aggregators, have complained for years about the big technology companies using content in search results or other features without payment.

Published on November 22, 2021

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