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Include the ABC and SBS in media code talks, say the Greens

In an observation viewed as another episode of neglect towards Australia’s public broadcasters, the Morrison government should include public broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS in their negotiations around shaping new media codes while they seek pay-for-use solutions with digital technology giants Facebook and Google, according to the Greens.

Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens’ senator from South Australia who holds the party’s communications portfolio, feels that the government’s schemes for a communications update within a Mandatory Code legislation policy with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would be incomplete without including the nation’s public broadcasters in the codes or even in the conversations.

“The power and greed of the tech giants is threatening journalism and public access to news. The government’s mandatory ACCC code could be part of the solution but the draft needs fixing and additional measures brought to the table,” Hanson-Young said on Monday.

The government’s plans to alter the media codes – as viewed by its intentional directive as a further attack on the ABC and SBS – has come on the heels of years of decay to the public broadcasters, despite the consistent high level of trust the public possesses in the ABC, and all the service that both the ABC and SBS have given over the years to regional and ethnic communities as well as in times of emergencies, such as with the bushfire crises and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 alone.

And many would claim that the decay has been intentional on the part of consecutive LNP governments.

Such as:

And the consequence of these actions has affected not just editorial policy which is deemed as friendly treatment of LNP governments, but something which has diluted the ABC’s reputation for delivering unflinching, no-fear-nor-favour independent public affairs journalism, and damage to its Charter as well.

Moreover, Hanson-Young claims that while the government is seeking for Facebook and Google to pay the nation’s media giants fees to run their content – which has been tried and failed in Spain, France and Germany – they also need to ensure that the reform of any media codes must protect the public broadcasters and enhance freedoms for public interest journalism, its reporters, sources and whistleblowers.

“The ABC is Australia’s most trusted news source and should be included in any reform to tackle the greed of the big tech giants,” she said.

“It was a deliberate decision to lock the public broadcasters out of the draft code, allowing Facebook and Google to profit from their content for free – the Government should reverse this and drop their relentless attack on the ABC,” Hanson-Young added.

And while the ACCC’s notice of reforms remains in its draft stage, it also says that in addition to Facebook and Google, other digital platforms may be added in the future if they pose a threat to Australia’s media giants such as News Corp and Nine/Fairfax.

The considerations of the future of public interest journalism and protections for the ABC and SBS should also stand at the forefront of any reforms, Hanson-Young says.

“Australia’s media landscape is facing unprecedented challenges. Public interest journalism, reliable local news and trustworthy and informed analysis is essential for a robust and accountable democracy. The power imbalance between the big tech giants and Australian news organisations is unsustainable,” said Hanson-Young.

“It is therefore important that key parts of Australia’s media landscape are protected as part of this process. There is no reason for the ABC and SBS to be excluded from the code. Public broadcasters deserve a fair return for what they produce and what the tech platforms benefit from,” she added.

And as the AAP newswire service recently received a reprieve to allow it to continue operating – whereas the alternative had reportedly been for News Corp and Nine/Fairfax to create newswires of their own, and charging higher fees for its services – Hanson-Young maintains that the independence of the AAP also needs to be supported within the reformed code, for all media players large and small.

“It would be unconscionable for the Government not to find a way of supporting AAP while introducing a code that supports other media players. AAP is key media infrastructure that helps new players into the market and diversity across Australia’s media landscape,” she said.

Hanson-Young also stated that through an updated ACCC draft of the media codes, cost-effective benefits via the application of collective bargaining would have to suit small and independent media publishers as well as the likes of News Corp and Nine/Fairfax who are waging battles against Facebook and Google.

“If the aim of this code is to ensure the viability of Australia’s media, then the Government should ensure ABC is included, that AAP doesn’t fail and that small and independent publishers don’t miss out,” Hanson-Young said.

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  1. JudithW

    Please correct me if I’m wrong but if FB & Google refuse to pay for news content but are not required to pay for news content from ABC or SBS, won’t that mean more traffic for the free sites?
    Sounds like that might be a win for the most trusted news sources in the country…

  2. Maxwell Denehy

    Morrisons lnp broadcaster .read ABC has goeblles hand book feeding us their propaganda..

  3. Matters Not

    JudithW at 2:06 pm. FB & Google generate revenue from ‘eyeballs’ – that is they sell advertising space to all and sundry and are able to do that because they are actually selling readers and/or viewers (eyeballs for short) to those who want to advertise (virtually anything). So if there are no readers/viewers – then they have nothing to sell.

    To get eyeballs you have to provide content (something to read or view). A couple of possibilities to get this content. You can pay people to generate same (like newspapers employ and pay journalists and did get advertising revenue in times gone by) or you can just steal journalists’ work. In short, just use it and don’t pay. So while FB & Google are charging advertisers for their captured ‘eyeballs’ they are not paying anyone. It’s all profit for FB and Google. Result is – newspapers under financial stress. React by sacking or reducing staff.

    While ABC and SBS might have a trusted readership they get a large part of their revenue from government funds (for the ABC that’s virtually ALL their funding.). If FB & Google use ABC generated ‘content’ then they are really stealing from us – the citizens who notionally are the owners of the public purse. Thus these current thieves should pay for what they use. BUT (and it’s a big but), the government may well receive money from FB & Google for the ABC generated content and then cut the ABC’s Budget by the same or an even greater amount.

    Certainly FB and Google don’t want to pay anything but they realise they may have to. Nothing is really for free – at least in the longer term.. Currently the government is in negotiation with the cross-bench to get legislative support in the Senate to force payment – with one Member at least arguing for payment for public broadcasters’ content (ABC and SBS). But the real fear is it will result in less payment to SBS and ABC eventually. For FB and Google, their worry is that if they pay in Australia they may have to pay everyehere else in the world. So there’s lots at stake.

    Hope that helps. If not – then ask away for clarification (which is probably needed.)

  4. wam

    Hahah, SHY is back to the front of the loonies not on TV. Any ideas??
    Her and our current bete noir is craig kelly who is convinced of the rabid lefties in the ABC that render the ABC a subversive organisation.
    Kelly can see the mainstream media slag labor at every news and opinion, hear the radio jocks attack as left anything that criticises the government, he can read the same anti-labor. With limited intelligence and no interest in anything that may challenge his beliefs he repeats the standard clp cry if you are not for us you are against us.
    He doesn’t watch the ABC and neither do the clp twits in my life but what you believe is the truth.
    The ABC cannot prove otherwise so will always be left merely by criticising the government.
    A major point, for me, is the use of ABC news items by the MSM eliminate the reference to the ABC so with the source simpletons, like kelly. think the commercial channel was actually at the disaster.

    Perhaps the real impediment to the ABC appealing to kelly is the need to concentrate for minutes rather than seconds

    if the ABC goes so will the Australian heritage and language as we sink to the septic swamp.
    What claptrap Even in my family only I go to Australian films on principle whilst my family goes to the ‘blockbusters’.when I convince them of the worth then I see it twice very rarely do they convince me of their film I think the last was about a thug driver for a black pianist, I enjoyed it.

  5. corvusboreus

    Craig Kelly gets lots of time on Sky, especially after dark.
    Sky is the dominant ambient noise in pubs and clubs, which are generally full of drunks playing pokies.
    If you want to narrow your mindset, I recommend spending lots of time ingesting neural anaesthetic and staring at flashing lights whilst in the background, framed by screens showing people flogging horses and chasing bouncing balls, Bolt, Jones and co bray their cacophonic chorus of bigoted bullshit.
    Extremism can be normalised by osmotic processes.

  6. corvusboreus

    Matters Not,
    Another way that people, having largely removed existent dangers like dominant predators, create their own adrenal excitement within mundanely safe environments is by buying low visibility cars (ie shades of grey on grey) then operating them at high velocity in close vehicular proximity irrespective of conditions (ie speedy tailgating on rainy roads).
    I wish that they wouldn’t but it seems that they must.

    Ps, did you catch the stats on violence in NSW & QLD during the NRL State of Origin?
    Wife beating goes up by a third, whilst public bashings increase by over half.
    Kinda unsurprising.

  7. wam

    MN and CB
    Watching rather than playing has revealed modern(poms violence in 60/70) examples of the bread and circuses of the dying empire. The dynamic power of the thumbs down release of crowd emotion was so devastatingly revealed by the racist booing of Adam Goodes.

  8. corvusboreus

    In full fairness to the demographic diversity within an angry shouty mob, some of the booing of Adam Goodes was probably more tribalistic than racial in origin, with the commonality being that he was sporting the ‘wrong’ colour.
    Having a biological perspective regarding melanin pigmentation and little emotional investment in the spectacle of men in lycra playing with balls, I tend to take a fairly dispassionate view.

  9. corvusboreus

    Bonus fun historical fact.
    In Rome and Byzantium, the colour coded factions comprising chariot racing ‘fanclubs’ were an easily coin-mobilised source of thuggish footsoldiery when ambitious politicians chose to employ street violence as a tactic.

  10. Jack Cade

    The debate going on here intrigues me. It seems to me that the more prosperous we become the more discontent there seems to be in society. When things are tough, and there is a common cause, disparate groups seem to be prepared to sacrifice personal comforts for the good of all. But when the ‘crisis’ or common cause has passed, we revert to ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ I am not explaining myself very well, but I recall the days of the Poland ‘solidarity’ movement, where the people joined together to rid themselves of tyranny. And what did they do when tyranny had been vanquished? They stopped voting and allowed tyranny to be elected by a minority. . The same goes for Czechs. Maybe it’s cyclical…
    If you’ve ever been in a mob, you will have experienced the crowd frenzy that makes individuals do, or think of doing, things they would abhor as individuals.
    Maggie Thatcher once said there is no such thing as ‘society’, and in a way she was right. Donne said ‘No man is an island’ and in a way he was wrong. When all our basic needs are met, we all become selfish little ‘islands’.

  11. Michael Taylor

    As an aside, Jack, what was the opinion of Thatcher among the Liverpudlians?

  12. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    About the same as their view of The Sun newspaper.
    When her plans to ‘modernise’ British industry (ie, closing down of coal mining, ship building, steel manufacture etc) were put in train, people said that it will destroy places like Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, her response was ‘Why don’t we just let those places die?’
    The Sun newspaper is not sold in Liverpool. A newly-acquired newsagency was boycotted for being silly enough to stock it.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Another reason to love Liverpool. 😀

  14. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    Sorry to harp on the topic because it’s not an AIMN issue, but of the 15 constituencies on Merseyside, the Conservatives hold 2.

  15. corvusboreus

    Jack Cade,
    As we type our musings, others are organising into nuclear communities, seeing wisdom in strengthening local collectivisation.
    Most of this is being done to fill gaps in safety nets as emergency refuge planning by people who see wisdom in such, especially given recent and currently emergent patterns and trends.

    However, within seemingly insularising preparation for the worst there is possibility to help towards the better.

    For example, learning more than fundamental first aid might be undertaken with the goal of post-apocalyptic survival, but along the way, learning to help heal and ease the hurts of your fellow humans will also contribute to shaping a better person.

    Within the clarity of mindful purpose that active engagement and skill sharing at the most localised level stimulates, greater insights into broader community and society are gleaned, and both evident failures and latent possibilities become more apparent.

    I heard some words on the subject from a community organiser wearing a greasy trucker hat just this morning.
    He calls himself ‘Beau of the fifth column’ and he has a channel on yewchoob.
    I may have mentioned that I reckon it’s worth a look.

  16. Jack Cade


    It’s a new tribalism, which is exactly the point I was struggling to make. When the chips are down (and they are certainly down for lots of people in lots of countries), people band together with people they would otherwise not share the time of day with. All you need is a common enemy. But the glue of such groups is only playdough.
    When the foe is routed, the groupings fragment. The film The Admirable Crichton explored the dynamics of groups of widely different individuals facing unusual, unexpected hardships, and the way unlikely leaders emerge, only to be spurned when things return to normal. But maybe it’s just pre-dawn musings, as you suggest.

  17. corvusboreus

    Mixed views on that one, especially whether community networks and workshops constitute modern tribalism.
    I suspect there is nuanced difference based on the strength and length of connection and depth of trust and respect developed, and whether overall goals are proactive and positive or just a reaction to increased adversity.

    The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, they’re more a potential ally of temporary pragmatic convenience with whom I happen to share an object of mutual hatred.

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