NPC: Collective effort needed to make Facebook, Google pay for news content

Australia’s move to get tech companies to pay for news content on its platforms has sparked interest among media practitioners in Malaysia.

However, the National Press Club of Malaysia (NPC) believes there must be a collective effort among nations to see this through.

NPC president Datuk Ahirudin Attan said the least the Malaysian government can do is to get in touch with its Australian counterpart and see if they can work together.

“We know Facebook and Google are bigger and richer than many governments. Australia is bold to do so. The country is home to media tycoons and has a big media legacy which has been affected by Facebook and Google’s beneficial vantage point over the years,” said Ahirudin, who also runs news website The Mole.

“It also affects us, including the smaller media organisations, and the move by Australia is a cue for us to follow suit.”

Ahirudin said perhaps it is also wise to join forces with other Southeast Asian nations in getting online technology companies to pay for content that appears on their platforms.

“It’s only fair to see some form of wealth distribution here but if we were to move alone and be shot down, it will only make these tech companies stronger.”

“When you do this in silo, it could be difficult to break through. Thus, there must be a collective effort involving as many governments as possible,” he added.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher were quoted as saying that a mandatory code on digital platforms will be finalised by July.

Fletcher went on to say the reforms were important to protect Australian journalism describing journalism as “vital in a democracy” and that “journalism costs money to produce”. News organisations around the world, and even in Malaysia, have taken a massive beating in recent years as content is being posted and advertising revenues focused on these third party platforms which claim ownership on the content posted.

Spain and France had made similar moves in the past but were deemed unsuccessful. Spain made payments to publishers mandatory, prompting Google to withdraw its Google News service there. French competition regulators were forced to order tech giants to negotiate after Facebook and Google refused to pay for users clicking on news sites.

In responding to Australia’s move, Facebook said it was “disappointed” but a defiant Frydenberg was yesterday quoted as saying his government will not bow to threats from technology giants not to show local content, adding it was a “battle worth fighting”.