Country Press Australia can collectively bargain with Google and Facebook

The ACCC has authorised Country Press Australia (CPA) and its members to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook about payments for their news content published on the platforms.

CPA is an industry body representing 81 news publishers who provide local and independent news to regional communities through 160 regional titles across Australia.

The authorisation is for a period of 10 years and follows the interim authorisation the ACCC granted in April this year.

“Since the ACCC granted Country Press interim authorisation to collectively bargain with digital platforms, it has already reached an in-principle 3-year deal with Facebook,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

“By enabling 160 regional newspapers to present a united front, a deal has been reached which stands to benefit regional news media businesses.”

“This shows that passage of the bargaining code has incentivised deals with a wide range of news businesses, both small and the larger players,” Mr Sims said.

Additionally, the authorisation will allow CPA and its members to discuss and exchange information with each other about those negotiations.

“This is likely to result in benefits such as reduced transaction costs, allow CPA members, who are often small businesses, to have improved input into negotiations, and help contribute to the sustainability of Australian regional news businesses,” Mr Sims said.

Participation is voluntary and does not involve any collective boycott conduct.

The ACCC has carefully considered any potential public detriments, including lessening of competition between CPA members, and does not consider the authorisation would result in any significant detriments.

More information including the ACCC’s final determination is available on the ACCC’s public register at Country Press Australia (CPA).

Background:

On 29 April 2021, the ACCC granted urgent interim authorisation allowing CPA to commence collective negotiations with Facebook and Google while the ACCC considers the substantive application for authorisation.

On 1 July 2021, the ACCC issued a draft determination proposing to grant this authorisation and invited submissions on the issue.

The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code allows registered news media businesses to bargain individually or collectively with designated digital platforms about payment for the inclusion of news on their services. Designated platforms can make deals outside of the code and can also make ‘standard offers’ available to news media businesses.

The provisions of the code, including the exemption for registered news businesses to collectively bargain with a designated digital platform, have not yet come into effect as no digital platforms have been designated by the Treasurer. This means that without authorisation, such conduct would risk breaching competition laws. News media businesses can, however, use the ACCC’s authorisation process to permit them to collectively bargain with digital platforms.

Note:

ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs the likely public detriment.

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