Australian government renews Meta fight over news content

Facebook and Instagram owner has said it would no longer pay local media for their material following a recent €120m deal

The Australian government has threatened action against Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, after the US social media company said it would stop paying local media companies this year for using their content.

The move, announced in a blog post on Friday, has reignited a furious public debate about how media companies should be compensated when sites such as Google News and Facebook use their material.

Anthony Albanese, Australia’s prime minister, said he was “very concerned” about the impact of Meta’s move. His government said it would “work through all available options under the News Media Bargaining Code”.

“Journalism is important and the idea that research and work done by others can be taken for free is simply intolerable,” Mr Albanese said in an interview with The Australian newspaper. “We will respond in the national interest,” he said, describing any situation where a company profits from another’s work as “unfair” and “not the Australian way”.


One option for the Australian government would be to “designate” Meta, which would force the company into arbitration over payments to media companies or face financial penalties.

Michael Miller, executive chair of News Corp Australasia, said that Meta was using its “immense market power to refuse to negotiate” and that the decision not to renew the deals would feed through to the viability of small and regional media companies in Australia.

Meta and Google struck deals in 2021 to pay Australian media companies, including News Corp, newspaper publisher Nine Entertainment and a host of smaller websites, broadcasters and regional newspapers, an aggregate total of more than A$200 million (€120 million) a year.

The Australian agreement was the first between the global technology industry and media companies in the world. It followed a stand-off between the then government and the tech sector that led to Google warning it would shut down its search services in Australia. That was in response to the introduction of a law that allowed the government to potentially fine tech companies millions of dollars if they refused to pay for media content.

Meta has been shunning the news business of late and has cut back news feeds in markets including Canada, the UK, France and Germany in recent months. It said it was set to “deprecate” its Facebook news “tab” in Australia and the US in April, citing a lack of interest from users. It said the number of people using Facebook News in Australia and the US had dropped 80 per cent in the past year.

“To ensure that we continue to invest in products and services that drive user engagement, we will not enter new commercial deals for traditional news content in these countries and will not offer new Facebook products specifically for news publishers in the future,” it said.

“Meta is attempting to mislead Australians by saying its decision is about the closure of its news tab product, however, the vast majority of news on Facebook and Meta is and will continue to be consumed outside this product,” Mr Miller said.

Google, which signed deals with 70 news businesses in Australia, has begun negotiations with some media companies to extend deals, according to a person with direct knowledge of the talks. – Copyright The Financial Times