Statement: News Media Alliance Criticizes U.S. Trade Representative Letter Pressuring Australian Government to Postpone Platform Bargaining Code

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Today the News Media Alliance sent a letter to the U.S. Economic Council Director, Brian Deese, and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)-Designate, Hon. Katherine Tai, to express serious concerns about a recent attempt by the USTR – in the very last days of the Trump Administration – to pressure the Australian government to suspend the country’s planned online platform bargaining code for news.

The Australian government in December introduced legislation that would require tech platforms such as Google and Facebook to fairly compensate news publishers for use of their content. Recent voluntary efforts to negotiate fair economic relationship with the platforms failed, leading the Australian government to introduce the mandate in order to establish a way to return real value back to the creation of quality journalism.

In its letter to USTR, News Media Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, stated, “This letter from USTR is in stark contrast with the well-documented and highly-regarded views of leaders of the United States Congress, which support collective negotiations to correct the gross imbalance of power in the marketplace. Continued attempts to undermine global efforts to ensure adequate and fair compensation for news publishers undermines the value of news publishers’ intellectual property internationally and may result in thousands of job losses in the United States.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative should represent the whole of the United States, not the interests of just a few dominant companies. However, opposing Australia’s – and global – efforts to protect the sustainability of high-quality journalism risks doing just that while undermining the legitimate interests and financial incentives of both news publishers and the civil society at large.”

At an Australian Senate committee hearing that took place today, Google threatened to turn off search in Australia if the proposed media bargaining code becomes law.

Chavern continued, “Australia isn’t alone in wanting to assure the continued creation and delivery of quality news and information in their country. The flatly arrogant threats made by Google and Facebook to remove themselves from the country show how little they regard the interests of their users and the societies they live in. Thankfully, Australians get to determine what happens in Australia; not two private companies based thousands of miles away.”

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