Fake news or no news? The folly of the News Media Bargaining Code

Meta’s declaration that Facebook will no longer pay Australian publishers for their news content has once again brought the News Media Bargaining Code into the spotlight. Let's dive into the implications of this decision and explore the potential outcomes of this controversial move.

The Folly of the News Media Bargaining Code

Well, well, well, it seems like the News Media Bargaining Code has once again found itself in hot water. Meta's recent announcement that it will stop paying some Australian publishers for their news content has reignited the debate around the effectiveness of this code. As Kim Wingerei eloquently puts it, the Code is a poor solution to the wrong problem. It's like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - it just doesn't work.

Now, Facebook's threat to remove news content altogether has put the Australian Government in a bit of a pickle. Should they invoke the Code and force Facebook to negotiate, risking a potential blockade of news content on the platform? Or should they sit back and watch Google get emboldened when their agreements with media companies come up for renewal in a couple of years?

The Reader's Guide

Revenue Redistribution

Let's talk numbers, shall we? According to IBISWorld, the digital advertising market in Australia is estimated to be worth a whopping $15.3 billion by 2024. Google snags a hefty $8.9 billion chunk of that pie, while Facebook walks away with $2.7 billion. The rest of the players fight tooth and nail over the remaining 24.3%.

The intended purpose of the Code was to level the playing field between social media giants and Australian media companies and support quality journalism. But what has it really accomplished? A mere 2.5% ($300 million) of Facebook's and Google's advertising revenue has been redirected to a select few media companies, including News Corp and Nine Entertainment.

And guess what? This whole charade has actually led to a decrease in tax contributions from Meta and Google in Australia. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

Social Media vs Search Engines

Let's address the elephant in the room - social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are not cut from the same cloth as search engines like Google. They operate on entirely different models and serve distinct purposes.

While social media platforms thrive on user-generated content and engagement, search engines like Google scour the web for information, curate it, and serve it up to users based on their search queries. Both offer valuable services, albeit in different ways.

But here's the kicker - the News Media Bargaining Code lumps them all together as Digital Media Platforms (DMPs) without acknowledging their unique functions. It does nothing to address the real issues plaguing these platforms, such as misinformation, hate speech, or data privacy concerns.

The Facebook Conundrum

The Code was essentially designed as a threat to coerce Facebook and Google into negotiations. However, no DMP has been declared under the Code so far, rendering it toothless in its current state.

Meta's initial reluctance to comply with the Code resulted in a brief standoff where news content was blocked on Facebook. Eventually, deals were struck, with millions of dollars reportedly changing hands between Meta and various media companies.

But here's the catch - Facebook has made it abundantly clear that if forced to pay for news content, they would rather pull the plug altogether. It's like a game of chicken with billions of dollars at stake!

The Canadian Experience

Looking north to Canada, we find a similar saga unfolding with their Online News Act. Google eventually caved and agreed to pay a hefty sum annually to a media fund, while Facebook decided to play hardball and block news content on its platform.

The repercussions have been felt most acutely by regional and niche news outlets that relied heavily on Facebook for audience engagement. The absence of Murdoch-run media companies in Canada spared them from some of the fallout.


Google, on the other hand, played its cards strategically by entering into agreements with several media companies behind closed doors. These confidential deals are believed to be worth hundreds of millions annually, yet they fly under the radar compared to Facebook's headline-grabbing antics.

By shuffling news content into its 'News Showcase', Google managed to avoid disrupting its core business model while placating media companies hungry for a slice of the revenue pie.

Other Solutions

The current regulatory landscape for Australian media is undeniably outdated and ill-equipped to handle the digital age we find ourselves in. Perhaps it's time to consider more innovative solutions like a licensing regime for social media platforms and search engines.

A licensing system would not only hold these platforms accountable for their content but also ensure fair taxation on profits earned within Australia. It's high time we stop playing favorites and start fostering a more equitable media ecosystem.

Picking Winners and Losers?

As we navigate through this turbulent sea of media regulations, one thing is clear - the stakes are high for both traditional media outlets and digital giants alike. It's not just about picking winners and losers but creating a level playing field where everyone can thrive.

While Google may dominate the search engine realm for now, new players are emerging on the horizon, signaling a shift in the status quo. It's a delicate dance between regulation and innovation that will shape the future of media consumption.

So, dear reader, buckle up for a wild ride as we witness the unfolding drama between tech titans and media moguls. The stage is set, the players are in position - let the showdown begin!

Saadat Qureshi

Hey, I'm Saadat Qureshi, your guide through the exciting worlds of education and technology. Originally from Karachi and a proud alum of the University of Birmingham, I'm now back in Karachi, Pakistan, exploring the intersection of learning and tech. Stick around for my fresh takes on the digital revolution! Connect With Me