Australia and Canada to have ‘important discussions’ after Meta exits news deals

Meta - Michelle Rowland

Communications minister Michelle Rowland and the minister for Canadian heritage Pascale St-Onge will meet later this month.

Meta is set to be at the centre of “important discussions” between federal communications minister Michelle Rowland and the minister for Canadian heritage, Pascale St-Onge.

The tech giant confirmed earlier this month that it would not renew its $70 million worth of deals to pay Australian publishers for news content when the existing News Media Bargaining Code deals expire this year.

Last year, Canada introduced the Online News Act, which required social media companies to compensate media for content. Meta responded by pulling news from its platforms, Facebook and Instagram, in Canada.

The Australian government now faces the decision of whether to ‘designate’ Meta, which would force it into arbitration. While big players including Seven West Media are pushing for designation, small outlets like The Daily Aus worry that Meta will respond by removing access to news on its platforms in Australia, just as it has done in Canada.

“Australian and Canadian public service representatives have met on a number of occasions to discuss respective regulatory frameworks, approaches and emerging issues,” a spokesperson for Rowland told Capital Brief.

“The Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP, is scheduled to meet the Minister for Canadian Heritage, the Hon Pascale St-Onge, later this month to continue these important discussions.”

After Meta announced its decision to exit the deals, communications minister Rowland said Australian journalists and news media publishers “provide one of the most important public goods in our democracy” and “deserve to be fairly compensated for the investments that they make in that.”

“The government is very disappointed at this outcome. The decision undermines the viability of a healthy, democratic, open media. It removes a significant source of revenue to Australian news media publishers.

“The government is committed to the news media bargaining code, and we’ve made it clear that we have always expected Meta to negotiate in good faith under that code. The government has sought advice from both Treasury and the ACCC, and we’re working through the processes under the news media bargaining code.”

Leaders from Australia’s news media publishers have also expressed their disappointment at the tech giant’s decision.

Writing for Mediaweek, James Warburton, managing director and CEO of Seven West Media, said: “What’s the best way to deal with bullies? Stand up to them. Don’t flinch. Don’t blink. Stare them down.

“The Albanese Government needs to stand up to Meta, designate it and not waiver. Meta will fight back, hard. It will get very messy. But we are a sovereign nation that should not – and will not – be bullied by multinational tech behemoths.:

News Corp Australia executive chairman, Michael Miller, said the move shows “the company’s brazen indifference to regulations and the content creators that feed their platform.”

In an opinion piece published in the Australian Financial Review, he added that the way the government responds will be “a vital moment in the global battle to force this trillion-dollar company to play by the same rules of commerce and fair trading that other businesses live by.”

See also: Memo to Meta: No one likes bullies (and they don’t win)
See also: Michael Miller: Government’s response to Meta will be “watched closely on the international stage”

Top image: Michelle Rowland

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