The media muddle in Australia is moving at great speed, and not a day seems to pass without some new and interesting developments.
In the last few days, Google has solved its issues with the Australia case, which has hogged the spotlight for a while now, by coming to multi-million dollar agreements with the broadcaster Nine Entertainment Holdings and Seven West. News giant Reuters came to an agreement last year.
In the last few days, even Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has reached an agreement.
Just when the Australian Government was putting out press releases saying that its policy was successful already and that Google was playing ball, Facebook upended the apple cart.
The social media platform pulled the plug on media companies putting news on their platform and, at the same time, blocked users in Australia from accessing that news. According to William Easton, Facebook’s boss in Australia and New Zealand, it was just too difficult and proved that the Australian regulators did not understand how the Facebook ‘platform’ works.’
The Google deals are attracting attention because of the knock-on effects they will have on its business models worldwide. The company has already been forced into doing deals with French publishers, and other countries will be watching closely and following swiftly.
If the average deal that Google has reached in Australia is of the order of AU $30 – $40 million, then a quick tap of the calculator shows the potential price of news content on the Google platform.
Whilst Google, Facebook and the Gang still seem to be in the ascendancy, and it could easily be a turning point. A few million here and there is not a big problem for Google, but once you multiply that number by, say, 50 countries, the bill is significant, even for a company that big.
Apart from that, of course, Australia’s case could also be the turning point for the rest of the world to decide how and when to regulate social media and big tech.
The backlash against Facebook’s decision, widely regarded as anti-democratic and ‘over the law’, will not make it any easier for the social media giant to continue to throw its weight about.
Indeed, those who wish to reform Section 230 in the US will be watching the finale of the Australia contretemps closely and taking notes.