The Australian Greens support the principles of the bill as an important step forward both in protecting public interest journalism in Australia and regulating the power imbalance that big technology companies have in the marketplace.
During the consultation phase on the draft code, the Greens called for the inclusion of the public broadcasters and welcome the inclusion of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in the final. Inclusion of the public broadcaster is vital in to ensure that the Code achieves its stated purpose of protecting public interest journalism.
Amendments are required to ensure that the Code is able to protect small and independent publishers and also to ensure that the funds raised through the Code are invested into public interest journalism.
Investment in public interest journalism
The purpose of this code is to help protect and fund public interest journalism, a key pillar of our democracy. Therefore, the revenue publishers receive through the Code must be used to invest in public interest journalism and not be handed out as profits to shareholders or overseas parent companies.
Recommendation 1: That the bill be amended to require news organisations to spend the revenue from the Code on resourcing public interest journalism.
The Code is just one step in protecting public interest journalism in Australia. A newswire service is an essential part of a diverse and healthy news media ecosystem. Funding through the PING fund has supported AAP in the
short-term; however the long-term stability is still at risk.
Recommendation 2: That the Government establish a permanent Public Interest News Gathering Trust and ensure that AAP is supported through public funding.
Protection for small and independent publishers
For the Code to be effective it must be able to have a positive impact for small and independent publishers, not just major news corporations. Media diversity is essential for public interest journalism and the collective bargaining provisions in the bill are essential to protect smaller publishers by allowing them to band together to achieve a fair outcome in negotiations with the multinational technology giants.
The Code must cover all publishers that contribute to public interest journalism in Australia. The 12-month review of the Code must provide a clear picture of the impact this policy change will have on small, independent and start up news media publications.
Recommendation 3: That the bill be amended to require the 12-month review of the Code to report on the impact that the Code is having on small, independent and start up publications and the state of journalism in Australia including the number of journalists employed.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Greens Senator for South Australia