Small Australian publications to down tools for a day

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Up to 50 local independent media outlets will stop publishing news for a day in a warning to the federal government and tech giants of what could happen if they are not paid for their content under landmark laws introduced last year.

The news outlets, which include Concrete Playground, Broadsheet Media, City Hub and Star Observer, are expected to ask readers to write to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers to ensure they receive funding from the technology platforms and avoid the risk of closure. The request will appear instead of news articles on each website for a 24-hour-period.

Independent media publications want a review into landmark laws that forced Google and Facebook into commercial talks with publishers to be closely reviewed.Credit:Getty

Multiple industry sources, who requested anonymity because the plan isn’t finalised, said a large group have engaged DOA Consulting – a company run by advertising executive Adam Ferrier and Ebony Gaylor – to handle the campaign. The number of publishers expected to take part in the news freeze is not confirmed, but sources say there could be up to 50 in total.

“I was approached by a number of publishers who were concerned about the code being rolled over ‘as is’ and was asked to be involved,” Ms Gaylor said when contacted by this masthead. “The current code is a great start, but it doesn’t go far enough in addressing the obscene power imbalance between big tech and publishers.”

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The timing of the campaign isn’t a coincidence. Earlier this month, the federal government began its review into the effectiveness of the news media bargaining code, a piece of legislation established one year ago to force the tech platforms into commercial talks with local media companies. Under the laws, failure to negotiate deals with media outlets would end in arbitration and fines of up to 10 per cent of revenue.

Google has signed deals with more than 170 news outlets including Nine Entertainment Co, the owner of this masthead. Facebook has similarly secured deals with a range of large and small news outlets. It announced a separate $15 million three-year investment in “public-interest journalism” earlier this month, but the funding has been criticised in industry circles as a “sugar hit” to publishers to keep them quiet. But there are some publishers that believe they were eligible for funding that have not successfully negotiated deals.

Nick Shelton, chief executive of Broadsheet Media said that while the code achieved a lot, the absence of deals with independent outlets was significant.

“The competitive implications are significant. These large publishers, who we compete with daily, now have an additional stream of revenue that we don’t have,” Mr Shelton said. “As a result we are being outspent on talent, on marketing and on technology, and anything else required to run a top-tier publication.



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