Contributed by Jim Hayes
The Morrison government is buckling down to hand Australia to Rupert Murdoch. It hasn’t stopped at the relaxation of cross ownership rules, enabling his News Crop empire to muscle into Fairfax newspapers, allowed him to move into television and take Channel nine, and even provide the ground to circle the ABC.
It is now moving fast to assist the penetration of digital media.
A draft document is being prepared, to force digital platforms to charge for news in Australia. This is being done under the claim that these platforms are noncompetitive. This is why the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) has been handed the ball.
The absence an investigation of the noncompetitive behaviour of News Corp says a lot.
The ACCC’s brief is to ensure that the digital platforms pay out. The immediate target is Google (which includes YouTube), and Facebook is not far behind, because they have the biggest audiences by far, and they provide free services, including access to information. This the basis for the accusation that they are acting in a noncompetitive way.
For Murdoch, they provide a barrier to large scale entry into digital media. And the ACCC has ordered, Google for now, to enter into discussion with News Corp to find a formula to hand over money. This is being called a “mandatory bargaining code.”
This means making the situation more favourable to News Corp.
The draft has held nothing back, saying that it purpose “seeks to address the fundamental bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms.” The ACCC is suggesting severe penalties for the digital platforms, up to 10 percent of annual turnover in Australia.
Google has responded with an open letter to all Australians, warning of the threat to free access and the squeezing out of small business, and the risk of access my media monopolies like News Corp to personal data.
According to News Corp chief in Australia, Michael Miller, company’s ambition over Google alone is worth $1 billion.
Former Howard treasurer Peter Costello, now a Murdoch employee at Nine, has been an important link between the Mogul’s empire and the Australian government.
Opposing this does not mean being the Google Facebook camp. It is no secret that they don’t always behave well. There is a bigger issue here. It is the control over the flow of information in Australia falling into the hands of a ruthless and politically driven monopoly.
The introduction of a user pays system will mean that access to information will be based on the capacity to pay. This is a major attack on a fundamental right.