It was just a matter of time. Earlier this year, Australian publishers made a big noise about Google and Facebook acting as news aggregators and publishers, but not paying the journalists that create the content they use. Thus the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code was born.
Meet the publishers taking on big tech
A few key South African publishing houses have established an industry association called Publisher Support Services (PSS). It plans to go the same route as the Australian government, and drag Google and Meta to the Competition Commission.
Made up of representatives from Media24, Arena Holdings, Caxton, Independent Media and Mail & Guardian Media, the PSS will submit its concerns to the commission.
“Globally, platforms like Google and Meta have been using publishers’ content at no cost to grow their market dominance. Our objective is to get them to compensate us fairly and equitably for our journalistic efforts. Hence, we are making submissions on their behaviour in the local market to the Competition Commission’s market inquiry into online platforms in South Africa,” says Mail & Guardian Media CEO Hoosain Karjieker, who also chairs PSS in a statement.
The Australian news media code all over again
The PSS’s goal is very similar to what the Australian news media code achieved earlier this year. Initially, the proposal of the code was met with extreme resistance from both Google and Facebook. Google threatened to exit the country, while Facebook barred Australian users from sharing locally produced news.
Lucky for Australian publishers, those threats were quickly vetoed. Google caved and signed a multi-billion dollar deal with the relevant parties. Facebook followed shortly after, signing deals with a few publishers in exchange for their content.
Of course this sparked a global discourse on how social platforms handle news. It asks whether they are, in fact, publishers and whether they should contribute to the organisations and journalists that work to create content for their platforms.
Surely, if tech corps like Meta and Google can be bullied into paying for news in Australia, publishers in other countries can follow suit? That’s where the PSS comes in for South Africa. Once the case makes its way to the Competition Commission, tech conglomerates will have to answer for their non-paying sins.
“PSS said submissions will be filed by next month, with hearings to follow in February. Karjieker invited other media houses to join the initiative. It said none of the media houses is available for further comment as the submissions are ‘confidential’,” TechCentral reports.