Big media firms trying to get government to cover Facebook money

Jun 27, 2024
A pile of Facebook likes
It was a little short of Clive Palmer’s spend but it seems to have had more influence on the outcome. Image: Pixabay

Australia’s mainstream media groups are trying to pressure the government in order to obtain funding to cover the $70 million that was provided by Facebook in a deal in 2021 and which the social media group has said it will not renew when the deal lapses later this year.

The 2021 deal was made under the government’s News Media Bargaining Code. The code includes a provision to “designate” a company that does not agree to bargain with media companies, with fines threatened if they do not comply.

Last week, the bigger media companies – News Corporation and Nine Entertainment, along with smaller firms like Australian Community Media – appeared at a Senate inquiry and tried to put pressure on the government to designate Facebook and force it to negotiate.

While the media companies, News Corporation foremost, are trying to sell the argument that Facebook is obligated to renew the deal, nothing could be further from the truth.

No matter what happens as a result of the deal not being renewed, that is for the media companies to deal with.

The government appears reluctant to designate Facebook, given that it will go to an election before May 2025, an exercise which Facebook can certainly influence one way or the other.

The last thing Anthony Albanese wants is a stoush with Meta; he has sufficient problems on his plate, many as a result of his inability to capitalise on a convincing win in the 2022 election.

At the same time, the government cannot afford to offend the mainstream media as that may result in a lot of negative stories that will not help its cause.

So it looks like the government will finally do what it has done in the past: hand out taxpayer funds to rich media companies and do so quietly.

This shameful exercise will be gone through at the same time as brave noises are made about the “terrible” social media companies.

Media companies that receive money in this way are highly unlikely to reveal it.

The loser, as usual, will be the taxpayer.

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