Australian tycoon to help small publishers strike deals with Google, Facebook

Australian tycoon to help small publishers strike deals with Google, Facebook

The Google logo and the Australian flag are displayed in this illustration taken on February 18, 2021. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Small Australian publishers will be in full swing in their battle to secure licensing deals with Google and Facebook (FB.O) after the country’s richest person said his charitable organization would seek to arrange collective bargaining for them.

Minderoo, owned by Andrew Forrest, president of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.AX), plans to help 18 small publishers by applying to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their behalf so they can negotiate together without breaking competition laws.

Publishers welcomed the move, including Star Observer, Australia’s oldest LGBTQ title, which like some other smaller publishers didn’t get a deal with Facebook despite having one with Google (GOOGL.O).

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Forrest’s additional influence as well as different approaches to smaller publishers by Google and Facebook could build momentum for the Australian government to step in and set fees.

Australia has broken new ground with a law that, since March, has required the two tech giants to negotiate with Australian outlets over content that brings traffic and advertising to their websites.

But while most of the big news providers have struck deals, many smaller publishers have been left behind, and Facebook in particular has been criticized for its reluctance to answer their calls.

Other publications that have made deals with Google but not Facebook include television broadcaster SBS, the leading source for news in foreign languages, and The Conversation, which publishes public affairs commentaries by academics.

Rod Sims, chair of the US Coordinating Committee, has also, on several occasions, expressed concern about whether Facebook is treating the law in the right spirit.

The law allows the Australian government to charge fees if negotiations between tech giants and news providers fail, but for now the rejected companies are left with no recourse as the government waits to review the law next March as planned.

The 18 small publishers helped include online publications that appeal to multicultural audiences and focus on issues at the local or regional level, Emma MacDonald, director of Frontier Technology, an initiative of the Mindero Foundation, said in a statement.

Google confirmed that “conversations are continuing with publishers of all sizes.” Facebook said it “has long supported small independent publishers”.

The corporation’s move comes after the ACCC late last month allowed a body representing 261 radio stations to negotiate a content deal.

($1 = 1.3826 Australian dollars)

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(Reporting by Byron Kay and Ringo Jose) Editing by Sam Holmes and Edwina Gibbs

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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