Google CEO Sundar Pichai (left) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Carsten Koall/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • The Australian government has signed its controversial media bargaining code into law.
  • It has been significantly amended from the proposal that saw Google threaten to leave the country, and Facebook banning news there.
  • Facebook already agreed to allow news back on its platform locally amid a string of last-minute concessions. 
  • Visit Business Insider SA for more stories.

The Australian government has signed its controversial media bargaining code into law, following months of heated disputes with Facebook and Google over its requirements. 

Under Australia's new "News Media Bargaining Code" law, the tech giants will have to pay news publishers in order to display their content in their news feeds and search results.

However, the law has been amended after the original, more stringent proposals resulted Google threatening to shut down its search engine locally and Facebook temporarily blocking news posts in Australia prior to its passing.

While Google sought to negate the terms of the law by striking multi-million dollar deals with publishers worldwide, including Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Facebook only came back to the table after a string of last-minute concessions from Australian lawmakers. 

Under the original proposals, Facebook and Google would have been required to individually negotiate content prices with publishers within three months, or be forced into an arbitration process where a government-appointed panel would pick between the publisher and tech giants' proposals.

But following talks between Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the government agreed to amendments that give the tech giants greater control over the negotiation process.

Under the final version of the bill, the law may not be applied to Facebook or Google if they already have deals to pay news publishers for their content in place. The Australian government will also give platforms a month's notice that they need to comply with the code, with forced arbitration more a measure of last resort. There must also be a two-month period of mediation before arbitration.

Having struck a flurry of 11th-hour deals with a number of Australia's major media outlets earlier this year, these changes appear to put Google in the clear for now. Meanwhile, Facebook has announced a new commercial deal with local publisher Seven West Media, signalling a similar desire to avoid arbitration. 

"After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them," Facebook's Australian managing director, Will Easton, said in a blog post.

Facebook will restore Australian news to its site for domestic and overseas users in the coming days. As of Thursday morning, however, Facebook pages for major Australian outlets such as remain unavailable from the UK.

Critics say the backroom dealing risked excluding smaller publishers.

The cofounder of Australian style site Man of Many, Scott Purcell, told AdNews that "the reality is that many smaller and independent publishers are still being left out of the conversations by the government as well as the private deals between the large tech companies, with the majority of benefits solely flowing through to traditional media companies and to the exclusion of independent localized content."

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