Australia to force Facebook, Google to pay media companies for content

U.S. social media and search giants would be required to negotiate with Australian media companies to use their content

Australia will force Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay Australian media outlets for news content, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Friday.

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Frydenberg said the mandatory code of conduct, which will be legislated into law this year, is needed to ensure the viability of Australian media companies.

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"It's about a fair go for Australian news media businesses. It's about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape," Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne.

Under Australia's proposal, the U.S. social media and search giants would be required to negotiate with Australian media companies to use their content.

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Australia will become the first country to require Facebook and Google to pay for news content. Both companies have spent years fending off demands for payment from news publishers worldwide.

Neither Google or Facebook immediately responded to requests for comment.

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If an agreement cannot reached, the matter will be sent to a statutory authority for arbitration. If a deal still cannot be reached within 45 days, the government body will make a final determination.

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(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Tom Hogue and Stephen Coates)