Media Bargaining Code amendments include a more 'streamlined' algorithm change notice

Australian government intends to introduce a number of clarifications and technical amendments to the Bill, aimed at improving the workability of the code.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Ahead of the News Media Bargaining Code becoming law in Australia, ministers have put forward amendments, including changes to algorithm notifications.

Throughout their battle with the Australian government, Google and Facebook have taken issue with the requirement for them to give news media businesses 28 days' notice of algorithm changes that are likely to materially affect referral traffic to news, those that affect the ranking of news behind paywalls, and any substantial changes to the display and presentation of news and advertising directly associated with news.

The Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2020 declared that responsible digital platform must ensure that: Notice of the change is given to the registered news business at least 28 days before the change is made; or if the change relates to a matter of urgent public interest, no later than 48 hours after the change is made.

"28-day advance notice is really a 28-day waiting period before we can make important changes to our systems," Google said previously.

On Tuesday, Minister Paul Fletcher and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said amendments to the Bill would "streamline the requirements for digital platforms to give advanced notice of algorithm changes to make them more workable".

Making a number of "clarifications and technical amendments" to the Bill, the pair said the changes would improve the workability of the code.

Further amendments include clarification on the arbitration criteria so that it considers the "reasonable costs" of both the digital platform and news media business, and clarifies payment will be made in a lump-sum.

It also clarifies the role of the ACCC, which is to focus on providing "factual information to assist the arbitrator" and adjusts the effect of anti-avoidance provisions so they take effect upon the commencement of the code.

The technical amendments will be introduced this week, ahead of its consideration in Parliament.

The code, among other things, requires tech giants -- Google and Facebook in the first instance -- to bargain with news outlets for remuneration to display news articles.

The bargaining code, according to the government, is necessary for addressing the fundamental bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and major digital platforms.

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee gave the green light on Friday for the legislation.


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