The Morrison Government will this week introduce technical amendments to the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code that will enhance the way it operates and strengthen its ability to foster more sustainable public interest journalism in Australia.
The Code creates a framework for parties to reach commercial agreements so that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate. A central feature of the Code is that it encourages parties to undertake commercial negotiations outside the Code.
It is encouraging to see recent reports that news media businesses and digital platforms are now reaching commercial agreements, against the backdrop of the Code being introduced into Parliament on 9 December 2020 and receiving the backing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee.
The Government will make a number of clarifications and technical amendments that will improve the workability of the Code while retaining its overall effect. These improvements will:
- streamline the requirements for digital platforms to give advanced notice of algorithm changes to make them more workable;
- clarify the arbitration criteria so that it considers the reasonable costs of both the digital platform and news media business and amend the legislation to remove any doubt that arbitrated remuneration is to be in the form of lump-sum payments;
- clarify the role of the ACCC, ensuring its focus is on providing factual information to assist the arbitrator; and
- adjust the effect of anti-avoidance provisions so that they take effect from the commencement of the Code and ensuring the government’s policy intent of not interfering with existing contractual rights under the code is achieved.
The Code will be reviewed by Treasury within one year of its commencement to ensure it is delivering outcomes that are consistent with the Government’s policy intent.