Australia looks at impact Facebook and Google has on traditional media

Australia Set to Investigate Google, Facebook Over Their Impact on News Market

Australia's competition and consumer regulator has announced it is investigating digital giants Google and Facebook to assess whether they are harming the country's media industry.

With print advertising expenditure in decline in the country, the government wants to get a better handle on the impact of digital content aggregation platforms, social media platforms, and search engines on the advertising market. While in Britain, Facebook has been asked to give up information on any advertisements purchased by accounts on the social media platform that were Russian linked around the general election last June and the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Treasurer Scott Morrison MP has now ordered Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to run the promised inquiry.

The spokesperson added that while news was just a small fraction of the content that is shared on its services, our role in today's media ecosystem is very important and we invest substantially in products that help publishers. Critics in Australia have however conveyed that the largest news media companies in the country failed to see what was coming and were less than innovative when faced with revenues in downfall. This trend has significant implications for the Australian market, where digital and print revenues for conventional news media slipped by 10.9 percent in the previous year and media buying in newspapers is down 18.4 percent.

Aside from looking into the effects of digital media to consumers, the ACCC will also study how these digital platforms affect the quality of news content produced by Australian journalists.

"As the media sector evolves, there are growing concerns that digital platforms are affecting traditional media's ability to fund the development of content", Sims said. Mr Sims has been given 12 months for an interim and 18 months for a final report on Facebook and Google's alleged abuse of market power "in commercial dealings with the creators of journalistic content and advertisers".

Details on the terms of reference for the inquiry are available here.

The ACCC plans to hear from content creators, mainstream and niche media outlets and operators, platform providers, advertisers, journalists, consumers and small business interest groups with a preliminary report expected in December 2018.

While the federal government's announcement of the inquiry didn't mention Google or Facebook by name, it's believed that they will be the main focus of discussions.

"We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant", a Google spokesman told Reuters.

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