Australian parliament passes news media bargaining code


FILE PHOTO: Google and Facebook logos, words "media, news, media" and Australian flag are displayed in this illustration taken, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code that will make it compulsory for Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content.

The code will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement.

"The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia," they said.

The passage of the code, developed after extensive analysis from Australia's anti-trust regulator and almost three years of public consultation, may offer encouragement to countries such as Britain and Canada which are planning similar laws.

Other countries have introduced legislation forcing major technology companies to negotiate with media companies for licensing fees for links that draw traffic, and advertising revenue, to their platforms.

The new code makes Australia the first country where a government arbitrator will set the rates tech giants have to pay if negotiations with media companies fail.

Frydenberg and Fletcher said the government was pleased to see "progress by both Google and more recently Facebook" in reaching commercial arrangements with Australian news media.

Facebook had cut off news in Australia last week amid tense negotiations with the government.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Leslie Adler and Stephen Coates)

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