The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is investigating whether U.S. online giants Facebook and Google, along with other digital platforms, have disrupted the news media market to the disadvantage of publishers and consumers. The ACCC wants to know if this long-term move to digital news is unreasonably limiting conventional publishers’ ability to produce content and if the “information asymmetry between internet services, advertisers, and the public is detrimental.”
Just like their global peers, Australia’s traditional media companies have been pinched by online rivals as advertising revenues have gone to digital distributers like Google, Facebook and Netflix.
“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators, and advertisers,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.
The inquiry would also study how Facebook and Google operated to “fully understand their influence in Australia,” he added.
The idea for an investigation by ACCC came forth during media reform negotiations in parliament earlier this year. This resulted in relaxation of ownership laws to allow the country’s major players to enhance their market share to compete better against online disrupters.
The government has asked for an investigation as part of wider media reforms in the midst of growing concern towards future journalism and the decreasing quality of news which is followed by years of declining profits and newsroom job cuts. Additionally, we cannot forget the increase in fake news.
Independent media analyst Peter Cox stated to Reuters that it was not clear as to what measures the competition regulator could recommend to the government if it found the country’s media sector was increasingly anti-competitive.
“You could see this as a stepping stone towards another type of reform, such as tax,” said Cox.
It will take a while for any concrete conclusion with regards to this investigation. The ACCC’s preliminary report is not due until December 2018. A lot of changes could take place between now and then. Facebook alone has made some swift changes in its relationship with their publishers.
Evidently, this investigation could increase the pressure on the internet giants to work with traditional news outlets and avoid government action.