Commercial Radio Australia to collectively bargain with Google and Facebook

29 October 2021

Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) can collectively negotiate with Facebook and Google over payment for their member stations’ news content featured on the platforms following an ACCC authorisation.

The ACCC’s final determination gives CRA a period of 10 years to collectively negotiate on behalf of all of its members other than stations operated by Nine Entertainment Co.

CRA is a radio industry association representing 261 member stations who provide commercial radio broadcasting and audio content to Australian communities on analogue and digital radio and via online platforms.

“This authorisation allows CRA to negotiate payment with Facebook and Google for its members’ news content, and for its members to engage in discussions with each other about those negotiations,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

These arrangements risk breaching competition laws without the ACCC’s authorisation because no digital platforms have yet been ‘designated’ under the news bargaining code. Designation automatically allows collective bargaining for news media businesses.

“The news media bargaining code offers an opportunity for media companies to negotiate payment for their news content for use by the major digital platforms and provides an incentive for digital platforms to voluntarily conduct these negotiations in good faith” Mr Sims said.

“To ensure more efficient and effective negotiations for payment for news content by digital platforms, the ACCC will continue to consider authorisation requests from groups of Australian news media businesses that produce public interest journalism.”

This determination follows the ACCC’s decision to grant authorisation to Country Press Australia to bargain with Facebook and Google on behalf of its members on 5 August 2021.

The determination is available on the ACCC’s public register at Commercial Radio Australia (CRA).

Background

One of the 23 recommendations made by the ACCC’s 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry final report was that a code be developed to address the imbalance in bargaining power between leading digital platforms and Australian news businesses. In April 2020, the Government directed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code. Legislation enacting the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code was passed by Parliament on 25 February 2021.

The news bargaining code allows news media businesses to bargain individually or collectively with designated digital platforms about payment for the inclusion of news on their services. Designated platforms can make deals outside of the code and can also make ‘standard offers’ available to news media businesses. The provisions of the code, including the exemption for registered news businesses to collectively bargain with a designated digital platform, have not yet come into effect as no digital platforms have been designated by the Treasurer.

Before deciding to designate a platform, the Treasurer has to take into account whether a significant bargaining power imbalance exists between the platform and Australian news businesses, and whether the platform has made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry via agreements with Australian news businesses.

Prior to the provisions of the Code coming into effect, with the designation of digital platforms by the Treasurer, news media businesses can use the ACCC’s authorisation process to permit them to collectively bargain with digital platforms.

In September 2021, the ACCC granted interim authorisation allowing CRA to engage in the conduct while the ACCC considered the substantive application for authorisation.

Notes to editors

ACCC authorisation provides statutory protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs the likely public detriment.

Release number: 
168/21
ACCC Infocentre: 

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Media enquiries: 
Media Team - 1300 138 917, media@accc.gov.au

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