Regional and independent new outlets are the big loser in the federal government’s revised media code, according to the former chief executive of Facebook Australia.
Earlier this week, social media giant Facebook agreed to walk-back its block on Australian news content after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed media bargaining laws.
The new laws have passed through both houses of Parliament following a period of intense negotiation between the Australian government and Facebook bosses, including founder Mark Zuckerburg.
Under the new legislation, Facebook will have to pay media outlets for access to their content or be forced into arbitration.
However, the former chief executive of Facebook Australia and New Zealand is warning that the code is not good news for regional media outlets.
Stephen Scheeler helped transform Facebook’s Australian arm from a quirky Silicon Valley success story to a media titan between 2013 and 2017.
He believed there was both good and bad news within the new deal, which will see Australian media companies’ Facebook profiles reinstated.
Mr Scheeler said the big news outlets were the big winners, and that regional and smaller independent publishers may end up being a casualty of the revised code.
“I don’t think it’s good for grassroots journalism, it’s not good for rural parts of Australia,” Mr Scheeler said.
Under the revised code conditions, Facebook will be given the power to determine who is considered a news publisher, according to Mr Scheeler.
“That was a change that was made at the request of Facebook by the government,” he said.
“If I was in regional Australia, I would be definitely talking to my MP or to the powers that be locally to say, ‘Well, what about us? Why weren’t we more more looked after in this process?'”
The latest amendment to the code has been met with lukewarm enthusiasm by regional publishers.
In western Victoria, the Hamilton Spectator has produced its newspaper for 160 years.
The newspaper’s editor, Tara Fry, said she was concerned about the power being handed to the social media titan.
“The idea that Facebook can determine who is and isn’t a newspaper is crazy,” she said.
“Prior to today, we were on the same playing field as our nearest competitor in print media.
But the government does not believe smaller media businesses will be left behind.
“We do expect there to be arrangements with small and regional publishers as well as the larger ones, albeit through a more efficient mode of engagement through a default offer,” Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher said.
Ms Fry said it was hard enough for independent newspapers to battle larger media outlets as it is.
“To think that one of our nearest competitors just up the road could get paid for their content while we couldn’t, it’s just a bit of a kick in the guts for us,” she said.
“The newspaper world in the last 12 months has been particularly hard so for us to pull through that has been incredible.
“But to think that once again, the bigger companies could be winning on all this, just kick us while we’re down — that’s how it feels.”
We hope you enjoyed seeing this story on “News & What’s On in Victoria’s South West Region titled “Former Facebook boss says regional publications lose out in new media deal”. This news article was shared by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local and national events & what’s on news services.
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