Facebook has agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia for journalism from its local mastheads. The deal has been secured just weeks after Australia passed a controversial world-first law aimed at making tech platforms pay for news content.
News Corp has not disclosed the value of the three-year contract in Australia. Last month, it clinched a global deal with Google. Mr Murdoch’s media empire began with his Australian newspapers, the deal covers all of News Corp’s content in the country – which is a significant amount. News Corp Australia controls about 70% of newspaper circulation in Australia with mastheads including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. It also owns news.com.au. It also owns the Fox News-modelled conservative TV network Sky News Australia, which has grown to become the most-shared Australian news brand on Facebook.
News Corp already has a different deal with Facebook for its US media titles. It involves the platform paying for stories to include in its Facebook News tab – a product not available in Australia. The Australian deal is far more broad – it covers all News Corp Australia content shared on Facebook. Like other publishers globally, Australian media outlets have lost revenue in the past decade as advertisers turned to internet giants such as Facebook and Google. News Corp spearheaded a lobbying campaign in Australia – with support from its traditional rivals – to get politicians to make the tech firms pay for news content from its sites. The Australian government then drew up legislation it said aimed to enshrine “fairer” contract negotiations between media and tech companies.
Both Google and Facebook had been strongly resistant to the media bargaining code. It encourages tech firms to strike their own commercial deals with media outlets, such as this one between Facebook and News Corp. Without such deals, the law would potentially force tech firms into forced arbitration with publishers over the value of content. Battles over the law’s design led Facebook to suddenly block all access to Australian news content on its site last month. On Tuesday, News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson praised the Facebook deal as a “landmark in transforming the terms of trade for journalism”. “Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch led a global debate while others in our industry were silent or supine as digital dysfunctionality threatened to turn journalism into a mendicant order,” said Mr Thomson. “This digital denouement has been more than a decade in the making.”
Analysts looking at Australia’s media law have long suggested that it is primarily designed to help big firms like News Corp as opposed to smaller media titles. Another one of Australia’s top three media companies, Seven West also signed a deal with Facebook last month. The Facebook-News Corp deal comes as a parliamentary inquiry in Canberra examined News Corp’s media dominance and influence in domestic affairs. It was sparked by an anti-Murdoch petition from former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd which received over 500,000 signatures.