Big online platforms to pay fair price for local news content

  • Hon Willie Jackson

The Government will legislate to require big online digital companies such as Google and Meta to pay a fair price to New Zealand media companies for the local news content they host and share on their platforms, Minister of Broadcasting Willie Jackson announced today.

The legislation will be modelled on similar laws in Australia and Canada and will act as an incentive for the digital platforms to reach high quality voluntary deals with local news outlets. The UK and the EU are looking to introduce similar legislation.

“It’s not fair that the big digital platforms like Google and Meta get to host and share local news for free. It costs to produce the news and it’s only fair they pay,” Willie Jackson said.

“New Zealand news media, particularly small regional and community newspapers, are struggling to remain financially viable as more advertising moves online. So it is critical that those benefiting from their news content actually pay for it.

“The reduction in income of our media companies is having an impact on news creation with a significant decline in the number of journalists in New Zealand and a reduction in the production of local news content, so this move is also about helping to ensure we can keep producing New Zealand news and stories.

“We don’t want a system where only the big players can get a deal. The Australian competition regulator found the big online players have substantial bargaining power, so we need legislation to sit behind any voluntary negotiations that helps to level the playing field”.

“While some deals have been reached voluntarily, small regional, rural, Maori and Pacific and ethnic media outlets are likely to miss out, so this is about ensuring everyone gets a fair go”.

“The legislation will be designed as a backstop to encourage companies to reach high quality voluntary agreements in the first instance. If companies like Google and Meta do good deals then they can avoid the new law being utilised.

“If an agreement between New Zealand news media and global digital platforms cannot be reached, the legislation sets out processes for negotiations and mandatory bargaining.

“The legislative fall back can be powerful. For example, in Australia, the legislation has never been used because companies have done voluntary deals to avoid being subject to the legislation. And in Canada, Google has reached agreements with more than 150 publications ahead of legislation coming in.”

“In recognition of the power imbalance between the big online platforms and local companies the legislation will allow media organisations to form collectives without first requiring Commerce Commission approval to negotiate.

“Similar rules in Australia saw Country Press Australia successfully conclude negotiations on behalf of smaller regional newspapers.

“This is a pragmatic approach, consistent with how other countries are working to ensure local media get a fair price for the news they create. We hope the online platforms engage positively with it and reach high quality voluntary agreements that support local content generation, without the legislation needing to be used.

“We want to see fair deals for all the media players in Aotearoa and ensure that new companies in the future will have to come to the bargaining table. It’s important to ensure a free and independent news media exists in Aotearoa and fair compensation for online media content is critical,” Willie Jackson said.

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