News Corp calls for ‘firmer action’ but media sector swings behind tech reforms

News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller has criticised the Morrison government’s decision to allow Facebook and Google to face voluntary rules as “out-of-kilter” and has pushed for a stronger response to regulating the tech titans.

But the Rupert Murdoch controlled media giant, which has led the charge to regulate big tech companies in recent years, was not supported by other Australian media organisations which broadly welcomed the news.

The government has agreed with most of the ACCC's recommendations.
The government has agreed with most of the ACCC’s recommendations. Credit:Reuters

The Morrison government confirmed on Thursday it would accept the majority of the competition regulator’s recommendations in its crackdown on the digital services, including a pilot program for an ombudsman, a review of media regulations, improved digital literacy and sweeping privacy changes.

Mr Miller said he believed more should be done to protect traditional news providers.


“Most of these initial steps are aligned with where the world is heading but more reforms are needed to protect consumers and ensure a vibrant and viable media industry,” he said in a statement.

“However, the Government’s approach of a voluntary code of conduct to oversee commercial arrangements as a first step appears out-of-kilter with leaders of other jurisdictions who have advocated firmer action.”

Nine Entertainment Co chief executive Hugh Marks expressed “strong support” for the government’s response and was supportive of a voluntary code. Nine is the owner of this masthead.

“I’m very pleased the government has strongly endorsed adopting those regulations,” he said. “It’s obviously better if we can work it out directly with the platforms … A voluntary code is the right way to go.”

While the “devil is in the detail” when it comes to changing media regulation, Mr Marks threw his support behind changes that would level the playing field.

“The general thing for me is the government’s tone and their obvious commitment to making this happen is to be congratulated and I’m really pleased that they’ve got on the front foot,” he said.

Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton also welcomed the majority of the response, saying in a statement that addressing outdated content requirements would bring certainty to the industry.

“The urgent need for regulatory equality between foreign digital platforms and Australian companies has been recognised by the Government. We see this as a real turning point, as for too long legislation has lagged well behind technological evolution, disadvantaging Australian companies and providing foreign digital platforms with a free ride,” he said.

However, he said the network was disappointed that the government had not backed a take-down scheme that would’ve required material infringing copyright rules to face more stringent requirements. The suggestion attracted mixed feedback from submissions throughout the consultation process.

Network Ten chief executive Paul Anderson said it was “great the government is making a serious attempt to address the deep-rooted dominance of the online tech and streaming giants”.

The tech giants have not yet shared in detail their stance on the government’s position.

Facebook director of policy for Australia and New Zealand Mia Garlick said the social media site shared the view “that now is an opportune time for democratic countries like Australia to work with industry on new regulation for the internet that protects the choice and opportunities for millions of Australians that use our services”.

A Google spokeswoman said the search giant had worked closely with the authorities “and will continue to do so in 2020”.

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