United Kingdom

New Zealand threatens tech giants with Australian-style media laws

New Zealand has called on Google and Facebook to pay its media companies for news as it considers bringing in Australia-style content laws.  

Kris Faafoi, New Zealand's broadcast minister, called on the tech giants to begin negotiations with broadcasters to pay for hosting their stories.

Faafoi said he met with both companies last week to 'encourage' them to enter talks with media companies - or else face harsher regulation. 

Kris Faafoi, New Zealand's broadcast minister, has met with Google and Facebook and told them to start negotiating with news publishers or else face laws like those passed in Australia 

'I'm confident that commercial discussions taking place between traditional media and digital platforms will also begin here in New Zealand and I encourage that,' he told a parliamentary meeting on Wednesday.

Australia last week passed legislation requiring tech firms to pay for news generated by local media companies, which have long complained that digital giants are sucking up their advertising revenue while also using their content.

Initially, the laws would have forced big tech companies to enter into negotiations with media companies acting as a bloc to strike deals over content.

If no deal can be reached then a regulator would step in to arbitrate and set a price for the content. 

But Facebook - after blocking all news in Australia for a time - won concessions which give it extra time to negotiate deals and make arbitration a 'last resort' that is unlikely to be used in practice.

Facebook also said it had been given assurances that it would be able to pick and choose which news companies to do deals with, destroying much of the media's collective bargaining power. 

Faafoi said the progress of talks in New Zealand would determine how the government framed its regulations on the issue.

Australia passed new laws last week forcing media companies to pay for content they host, though Facebook won significant concessions after blocking news for a week (pictured)

'They will be heavily influenced by the nature of the actions and discussions between the platforms and media companies,' he said.

He said New Zealand media were facing a financial crisis at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic meant their work was increasingly important.

'The media's role through the pandemic was key to New Zealand's successful response,' he said.

'As minister, I'm committed to supporting the sector... and to deliver the change required to make it stronger and sustainable in the future.'

New Zealand is not the only country looking at ways to make tech companies which dominate their markets and soak up the lion's share of advertising revenue share their wealth with media firms which have seen profits dwindle in recent years.

The UK is thought to be looking at similar legislation with proposals due before parliament next year, while the EU is being encouraged to include similar laws in its Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act, which are currently being drafted.

Lobbyists in the US are also thought to be considering similar proposals, but moves are at a less-advanced stage. 

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