Deadlines loom with France, Australia, and EU entities on media-platform regulations

By L. Carol Christopher

INMA

Pleasant Hill, California, USA

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On my desk, I keep a note card with the question, “What to try next?” It reminds me not to rest on my achievements, to keep my wits about me and stay on my toes.

As the international news publishing industry in all its facets faces the response of digital platforms to mandated deadlines in the coming weeks, it would behoove it to ponder the possible eventuality that the end game it seeks — whether it’s remuneration, a code of conduct, or an enforceable agreement over user data — will continue to be elusive in the face of opponents as agile as the digital platforms have proven to be.

Experience suggests that there will be another round. The question to keep in the back of your mind may be, “What to try next?”

Deadlines involving Google and news media companies in France and the EU are coming up. In addition, journalist organisations are calling for Google to be transparent with their licensing deals.
Deadlines involving Google and news media companies in France and the EU are coming up. In addition, journalist organisations are calling for Google to be transparent with their licensing deals.

Platforms and publishers continue multi-front battles 

In the multi-year battle between digital platforms and news media publishers, it is unlikely that there has been a time when more possibilities loomed. Protracted discussion has led many to agree upon a common denominator of need from the platforms, while concerted action involving government entities has led to several pending deadlines. 

Here’s a bird’s eye view of what’s been said and what to look for in the next six to eight weeks:

July: France

Remuneration agreement: “The Autorité has found that serious and immediate harm has been caused to the press sector as a result of Google's behaviour, which, in the context of a major crisis in this sector, deprives publishers and news agencies of a vital resource to ensure the continuity of their activities, and this at the crucial time of entry into force of the Law on Related Rights. It has ordered interim measures allowing publishers and news agencies, if they so wish, to enter into negotiations in good faith with Google with a view to discussing both the terms and conditions for the reuse and display of their protected content and the corresponding remuneration. These negotiations must take place within a limited period of three months following the publisher or news agency’s request and, in respect of remuneration, must include the period since 24 October 2019.” — Autorité de Concurrence, April 9, 2020

End of July: Australia 

Mandatory code of conduct between media outlets and digital platforms: “… the Government has instructed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code to address commercial arrangements between digital platforms and news media businesses. Among the elements the code will cover include the sharing of data, ranking and display of news content and the monetisation, and the sharing of revenue generated from news. The mandatory code will also establish appropriate enforcement, penalty and binding dispute resolution mechanisms. A draft mandatory code will be released for consultation by the ACCC before the end of July, with a final code to be settled soon thereafter.” — The Hon. Josh Frydenberg, MP, April 20, 2020

August 15: EU

Personalised ad permissions protocol

The Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF), was developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Europe to ensure that Google, along with its clients and partners, had the “appropriate” GDPR approvals from consumers, according to Reuters (which does an excellent job of parsing out what the technical issues are and what each side thought it was agreeing to).

So in brief, Reuters reported: “Publishers had expected to use data privacy measures going into effect August 15 to bar Google from storing insights.” Instead, Google has thwarted that plan, leaving Schibsted’s Chief Privacy Officer Ingvild Ness to tell Reuters: “We are concerned when big players seek to dictate the ways we should process data. It’s concerning and problematic if we end up in a situation where certain companies become gatekeepers.” 

Reuters also mentioned an academic paper (Why Google Dominates Advertising Markets: Competition Policy Could Lean on the Principles of Financial Market Regulation) by Yale antitrust fellow and News Corp. consultant Dina Srinivasan. You can find the abstract here or download the 75-page paper here.

Update: Journalists’ organisations weighing in on Google licensing deal

Journalist organisations are beginning to weigh in on their hopes for Google’s recently announced news licensing programme. Their statements shed light on some of the thinking within a group without whom the platforms/content debate would be moot: journalists. 

The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) and their affiliates met in Moscow in mid-July and issued a call for Google to be “transparent in its recently inked deals with news publishers and ensure that journalists are provided with a fair share.” The EFJ represents more than 320,000 journalists in 45 countries, and the IFJ, the world's largest organisation of journalists, represents 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries, according to its Web site

  • IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Google finally reaching for its wallet is good news and a step in the right direction, but much more must be done to ensure that the process and the remuneration are fair, and that journalists benefit.” 
  • EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutierrez said: “We regret that some newspapers have opted for individual deals rather than collective negotiation, and we warn regulators against lax approaches that would see the tech giant circumvent EU legal obligations to pay the media and journalists.”
  • Mike Holderness, chair of the Federations’ Authors Rights’ Experts Group (AREG), declared: “With this ‘licensing programme,’ Google is trying to buy time, polish its image, and distract attention from its legal liability to pay all publishers, with a fair share for journalists.”

Stay tuned! 

About L. Carol Christopher

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