Last week, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission approved an application for Commercial Radio Australia to collectively bargain with Google and Facebook over the carriage by these tech platforms of news content from Australian radio broadcasters (press release here, application and approval here). This approval is an outgrowth of the adoption of the Australian News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code, which authorized bargaining between traditional news media outlets and tech platforms and, if the bargaining is not successful, a mandatory arbitration process to set appropriate royalties to be paid by the tech companies for the use of the news provider’s content. These actions could be a preview of what could happen in the United States at some point in the future if pending legislation known as The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which we wrote about here, is adopted.
There are, of course, differences between the Australian approach and what has been proposed thus far in the United States. The US bill, while providing an antitrust exemption that would permit collective bargaining with tech companies by groups of traditional media companies, does not provide for any mandatory arbitration process for setting rates if no agreement is reached as to the rates and terms of content carriage by the tech companies. Without providing any mandatory rate-setting process, if negotiations are not successful, the most significant bargaining chip in the US would be for the local media companies to withhold consent to the use of their content by the tech platforms. It is interesting to note that, in the application by the Australian broadcasters’ organization for a waiver from their competition (antitrust) laws to allow the collective bargaining, the broadcasters disavowed any boycott of the tech platforms, which presumably would be unnecessary with mandatory arbitration waiting if a voluntary agreement cannot be reached. In the US, a threat to pull content off tech platforms could become more important, though perhaps more difficult to achieve because of antitrust laws (which may allow collective bargaining but may not permit collective boycotts) and other US laws and policies.
Continue Reading Could Australian Decision Giving Broadcasters the Right to Collectively Bargain with Tech Companies Be a Preview of Things to Come in the US?