“Holding such critical positions in both the media and advertising markets results in special responsibilities. All companies which obtain a substantial degree of market power, are subject to the special responsibilities of dominant firms. What I mean by this is that conduct by a non-dominant firm that is benign may become problematic when a dominant firm engages in the same behaviour,” Mr Sims said.
“However, we consider that in each of Google and Facebook’s case, the special responsibility should go further, given the extent of their market power, the opacity of their operations and the critical roles they perform in what news and journalism is read/watched/listened to by citizens.”
Mr Sims said there were things which digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook, did which not only disadvantaged traditional media players, but prevented them from competing on merits.
“We cannot simply leave the production of news and journalism entirely to market forces,” Mr Sims said.
The competition boss listed issues such as a lack of transparency around advertising technology, the ranking of news on platforms, attributing of original content, and paywalls – an increasingly important part of media business models given the flow of advertising going to Google and Facebook – being unfairly treated.
The ACCC handed down its preliminary report in December and submissions in response to it are due this Friday. The draft report included a set of 11 recommendations aimed at reducing the market power of Facebook and Google.
The key recommendations relating to journalism, Mr Sims said, are oversight over the ranking of news content, which includes a regulatory authority scrutinising information, including how algorithms are impacting ranks, a government review to build a framework to apply to all media rather than patchwork across mediums, and a mandatory standard around taking down copyright-infringing content.
The ACCC is also recommending further investigation into providing tax offsets for journalism, making personal subscriptions tax-deductible and a review of the regional and small publishers’ funding package which is only running for three years.
Nine, publisher of The Australian Financial Review, has an advertising deal with Google, which it inherited from its merger with Fairfax Media last year.