Govt Launches Inquiry Into Facebook & Google's Effect On Oz Media

Pic Reuters

Pic ReutersSYDNEY

After the USA and Britain, Australia will now probe the impact of key digital platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter on media, journalism and advertising, including the spread of fake news, in the country.

"We will also consider the impact of information asymmetry between digital platform providers and advertisers and consumers", he said.

The launch of this inquiry is part of the Australian government's Broadcast and Content Reform package that aims to help support jobs and media diversity in the country. Previous year the US newspaper industry saw advertising revenues of $18 billion compared to $49 billion a decade earlier, according to the Pew Research Center.

The probe comes as several traditional Australian media companies, especially in the print and television sectors, have witnessed declines in advertising revenue.

"The ACCC goes into this inquiry with an open mind to and will study how digital platforms such as Facebook and Google operate to fully understand their influence in Australia", ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

Facebook and Google have often been at pains to avoid being labelled as media companies, and suggest that they are instead platforms.

Facebook's and Google's emergence as key news discovery platforms as well as advertising mediums has troubled traditional media organizations for a while.

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The ACCC's inquiry will zero in on how tech giants like Facebook and Google use their market power in commercial dealings with media and advertising bodies, and the impact this has on journalistic content.

The idea for an ACCC investigation was hatched during media reform negotiations in parliament earlier this year, which resulted in a relaxation of ownership laws to allow the country's big players to boost their market share to better compete against online disruptors.

The inquiry is being held under Part VIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act (2010), giving the ACCC the ability to gather information on a compulsory basis, as well as hold hearings to assess the level of competition in a market.

Significantly, Mr Sims has not been tasked with investigating exactly what local tax is paid by Google and Facebook on all revenues derived from Australian advertisers and consumers.

"We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant", a Google spokesman told Reuters.

The consumer watchdog said it will be calling for public submissions soon. The ACCC's preliminary report isn't due until early December in 2018, and a finished report will have to wait until June 2019.

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