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Break up monopolies, says Free TV

‘Golden opportunity’ to rein in global digital platforms.

By Lilia Guan on Sep 24 2019 09:43 AM–says-free-tv-.

Breaking up global players like Google and Facebook is the only way Australia will be able to create a level playing field.

That’s according to media industry organisation Free TV Australia which has called on the Australian Government to implement key recommendations from the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report.

Free TV chief executive officer Bridget Fair said now was the time to act on the recommendations of the ACCC’s world-leading report on the behaviour of digital platforms.

“We are experiencing unprecedented disruption within the broadcast media industry because of the growing dominance of the largely unregulated digital platforms such as Google and Facebook,” she said.

Fair believes reform of media regulations is long overdue, particularly in areas such as Australian content quotas and advertising restrictions that penalise commercial Free TV broadcasters.

“Consultation needs to start immediately on the creation of a Code of Conduct governing how digital platforms must negotiate with media businesses,” she said. “This is vital to address the unequal bargaining position between media businesses and the digital platforms.”

The Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report represents a “golden opportunity for the Government to rein in these global monopolies,” Fair added.

Melanie Silva, managing director Google Australia recently stated Google’s advertising tools, non-profit grants and Google Search had “helped connect more than 1.1m [Australian] businesses, website publishers, and non-profits to consumers globally”.

Although the Government has yet to respond to Free TV Australia’s calls, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has previously said there’s a whole range of issue that are reflected in the 23 recommendations that the ACCC has made, which the Government will consider.

In a July 2019 interview on ABC Insiders, the Minister said Google and Facebook have substantial market power. “They have a pervasive presence in the Australian economy” but “Australians may well not understand how they are using the data”.

“There was a lot of interest globally in the ACCC’s preliminary report and I expect there’ll be a lot of global interest in this report. Certainly, there are many more choices now available to Australians,” he stated during the interview.

“Enormous amounts of information are available to you over digital platforms, so there is choice and diversity. But the question is: what is the impact, for example, on local newspapers, on regional newspapers? And what would be an appropriate policy response?”

The Digital Platforms Inquiry was commissioned by the former Turnbull government in December 2017 to evaluate the effect of the top-heavy digital media market on competition in the news media and advertising services markets.

After two years of enquiries and over 180 submissions, the 619-page final report was published in July this year and included 23 recommendations that would, if implemented, fundamentally reshape social media, online news, privacy, and consumer rights.

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