As outlined in the previous chapters, challenges faced by media outlets
producing public interest journalism are not unique to Australia, but are truly
global in nature. In considering what models of policy or legislative reform
might be appropriate for the Commonwealth to consider, the committee has looked
at some ways that other jurisdictions have approached the task of ensuring
their media sectors remain strong, sustainable, and diverse, and address the
problems caused by fake news.
Efforts to counter hate speech
In May 2016, many of the large aggregators signed a European Union
(EU)-sponsored code of conduct, which included a commitment to develop and
establish a definition of illegal hate speech and other extremist material.
Signatories included Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube.
On 28 September 2017, the EU presented 'guidelines and principles for
online platforms' to ensure illegal content was removed quickly. It stated that
this was not solely to prevent the distribution of illegal content, but also to
bolster the trustworthiness of the digital environment, noting its economic
The aim is to increase the
proactive prevention, detection and removal of illegal content inciting hatred,
violence and terrorism online. The increasing availability and spreading of
terrorist material and content that incites violence and hatred online is a
serious threat to the security and safety of EU citizens. It also undermines
citizens' trust and confidence in the digital environment – a key engine of
innovation, growth and jobs.
The EU Parliament is currently considering a Directive on Copyright in
the Digital Single Market, which would create 'a new related right for
publishers of press publications for the digital use of their publications'.
This is intended to secure a sustainable press, and to make it easier for publishers
to license their material and/or enforce intellectual property rights.
Considerable controversy has arisen over the proposal, with questions
raised about how it would increase revenue for press publishers and encourage
more sustainable business models in the media. Critics have noted that earlier
amendments to copyright laws in Germany and Spain (which informed EU-wide
reform) have not bolstered the media sector against the collapse of
subscription and advertising revenues in those countries.
for the press
A number of European countries also give direct subsidies to media,
which were summarised in the submission made by the Media, Entertainment &
Arts Alliance (MEAA). This submission noted there has been little suggestion
that these measures have either politicised the media, or restricted editorial
Government newspaper subsidies, which have been in use since
the 1970s, exist in Belgium, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
According the London School of Economics, the French government provides €1
billion a year in State subsidies [as discussed below].
Germany has advocated for EU-level laws to combat hate speech and the
prevalence of fake news, and has passed controversial national legislation to
deal with these issues which came into effect on 1 January 2018.
This piece of legislation, the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), is often
termed 'the Facebook Law'.
This empowers the government to penalise social media companies that do not
swiftly remove 'obviously illegal' content, including hate speech, defamation,
threats, incitement to violence and certain kinds of fake news. Under the law,
fines could be issued to companies that fail to take down 'obviously illegal'
content within 24 hours, ranging from €5 million for early infringements
to €50 million for sustained breaches.
The NetzDG also requires social media companies to publish regular
reports on the number of complaints received, and how these complaints were
handled. Again, the government can impose fines for non-compliance with these
The development of this legislation was controversial, accruing
criticisms in particular from human rights organisations and free speech
advocates, who have claimed that the law risks extending censorship provisions
and having a chilling effect on free speech. Moreover, commentators have noted
that 'it creates an unreasonable and possibly unconstitutional requirement for
social network staff members to make rapid-fire judgements about freedom of
expression and the legality of public opinion'.
On the other hand, it has been supported by groups representing minorities,
including the German Central Council of Jews.
Facebook has criticised the NetzDG, issuing a statement that argued:
The draft law provides an incentive to delete content that is
not clearly illegal when social networks face such a disproportionate threat of
fines... It would have the effect of transferring responsibility for complex
legal decisions from public authorities to private companies. And several legal
experts have assessed the draft law as being against the German constitution
and non-compliant with EU law. Facebook is committed to working in partnership
with governments and civil society on solutions that will make this draft law
Austria gives extensive support to the newspaper sector through its Press
Subsidies Act 2004, which is designed to encourage diversity and support
public interest journalism. One particular challenge to local Austrian content
is from the neighbouring German press sector, which is much larger.
This legislation empowers KommAustria, the national communications
Authority, to distribute subsidies following recommendations made by Press
Subsidies Commission, which evaluates grant applications.
According to a summary available on KommAustria's website:
In addition to distribution subsidies for daily and weekly
newspapers and special subsidies for the preservation of diversity in regional
daily newspapers..., the Press Subsidies Act of 2004 also provides for a number
of new measures to promote quality and secure the future of the industry...
Under the heading 'Promotion of Journalist Education,' the
publishers of daily and weekly newspapers can now receive subsidies toward the
costs of training new journalists.
Another new development is the subsidy for employing foreign
For the purpose of promoting the reading of daily and weekly
newspapers - especially at schools–associations which have defined the
promotion of reading as their sole objective can also receive subsidies.
Publishers which provide schools with daily and weekly newspapers free of
charge can be reimbursed for up to 10% of their regular selling price.
Another new addition is the promotion of research projects in
According to Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia
(JERAA), Austria distributed €54.7 million to media in 2015, including €7
million to daily and weekly newspapers and websites, and €47.4 million to the
broadcasting sector. JERAA also noted that the Austrian government supported
its national press council, which oversees journalistic ethics, with €204,000
Austria also contributes to newspapers for the training of young
journalists to assure the future of public interest journalism.
Belgium provides indirect support to its media sector. This support
includes exemptions from Value Added Tax for newspapers and magazines publishing
informative content for the general public and appearing at least fifty times a
year, as well as subsidies for postal delivery of Belgian newspapers and
Belgian media is divided along linguistic lines, with the different
cultural community governments of Belgium providing direct government support
to their respective media industries.
The Francophone Community subsidises French language, paper-version newspapers
with at least 200 paid editions per year that meet other conditions. The
Flemish Community gives annual subsidies to promote reading of the press and to
improve the quality of press writing.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom provides limited subsidies for the press, notably an
exception from paying Value Added Tax. However, it does impose a direct levy on
each household to fund the British Broadcasting Corporation.
In 2011, the
UK prime minister announced the establishment of an inquiry to investigate the
role of the press and the police following the News International phone
hacking scandal. The inquiry examined 'the culture, practices and ethics of the
This inquiry recommended establishing an independent regulatory body for the
press, without influence from industry or government, and revisions to
legislation on data protection.
Part I of the inquiry reported in November 2012. At the time of writing, the
second phase of the inquiry has not yet commenced.
early 2017, a UK parliamentary committee commenced an inquiry looking at fake
news, in part to address a perceived threat to democratic principles and
institutions, including elections, as well as waning trust in the media. This
inquiry lapsed when the UK's General Election was called on 8 June 2017
and was revived in the new parliament. As of January 2018 the inquiry remained
open and was accepting submissions.
Digital Economy Act received royal assent in April 2017. Key provisions
of the act relevant to this inquiry include the establishment of a code of
practice for online social media platforms, developed in consultation with
social media providers.
Norway provides a range of assistance to news providers to encourage
healthy diversity and competition. Subsidies are targeted at newspapers in a 'difficult
market position', particularly those servicing local communities.
In 2015, direct support for Norway's newspaper sector totalled €33.4 million.
Expenditure for these subsidies is determined annually by parliament,
with rates of distribution set by the Ministry of Culture and Church, and
administered by the Norwegian Media Authority.
The largest subsidy available was the 'production subsidy', which in 2012
amounted to 287.9 million Norwegian Krone just for newspapers.
To be eligible, newspapers had to satisfy a range of criteria, namely:
general news (that is, not be focused on a single issue)
to the editors' code, set by the editors and publishers' association
editorial independence to its journalists
pay dividends to owners
have profits exceeding €220,000 per year, and
be a free newspaper or an exclusively online publication.
There are also indirect support measures for all Norwegian newspapers,
particularly through a VAT exemption on sales.
The Swedish government provides two types of subsidies for the press: an
operational subsidy and a distribution subsidy. Indirect subsidies for all
printed newspapers include reduced Value Added Tax on sale price.
The subsidies are funded by a 10 per cent levy on advertising in general, and a
3 per cent levy on newspaper advertising.
The French government provides support to the press to:
Promote circulation by, for example, supporting the
distribution of daily general and political news;
Promote diversity and pluralism by providing extra support
for national daily general and political information press with low advertising
income, as well as for regional, provincial, local and political information
press with low advertising income;
Modernise and diversify media companies to shift to online
According to the MEAA, the London School of Economics estimated that
France provides around €1 billion a year in state subsidies for media,
In 2015 direct subsidies worth €77 million were provided to
326 newspapers and publications. The subsidies assisted regional and local
press, helped fund modernisation and to assist with restructuring. More than
93% of the French Government's support goes to hard‐copy newspapers and only 7% to
Indirect subsidies worth around €500m have been made
available, including €200m for exemptions from local business rates, €160m for
the lower VAT rates and around €250m on the special tax and social security
contributions status granted to journalists. The state also pays over €100m a
year to the newswire agency AFP.
Forms of indirect support from the French government include a lower
rate for Value Added Tax, tax relief, preferential postal rates and waiving of
professional taxes for publishers.
In January 2018, President Emmanuel Macron signalled that his government
would introduce legislation looking to limit the use and spread of fake news
during election campaigns. These laws would include both social media and
traditional media platforms, and include emergency powers to delete content or
The JERAA noted an overview of government subsidies for the press around
the world which reported that since 1990, Italian government subsidies had
consisted of a fixed annual amount equating to 30 per cent of operating costs,
and a variable contribution based on circulation figures.
However, analysts writing for the European Journalism Centre have argued
that parliamentary and government interventions in the Italian media 'have
lacked a coherent approach, often influenced by the partisan considerations of
In 2014, a law requiring all Spanish news publishers to charge news
aggregators for using even a small excerpt from their publications was enacted.
This led to the closure of local news aggregators, a drop in user traffic
because smaller news publishers relied on news aggregators to increase their
audience, and Google News closing its service to the Spanish market.
A submission received by the committee from a group of academics noted
that a study commissioned by the Spanish publishers association found that the
'Google tax' had caused considerable damage to the news industry in Spain.
The study found that the law would have an impact of approximately €10 million a
year on producer surplus in the short-term.
The United States
Although the United States has not provided direct subsidies for news
media to the same extent that governments in many European countries have, some
federal and state tax benefits are designed to support newspapers and
According to several submitters, philanthropic funding for non-profit investigative
journalism, made attractive by tax deductibility, has contributed to a recent
increase in the rise of centres for this kind of journalism in the United
States, many of them attached to universities.
Several submissions to this inquiry noted that a number of major
American subscription news websites such as the New York Times and the Washington
Post have recently grown their subscriber base by reinventing their
business models and focusing on issues that their audiences value, particularly
in areas related to investigative journalism.
In January 2017 the United States House of Representatives Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence commenced an investigation into Russian
interference in the 2016 election, including the use of advertisements on and
spread of fake news via Facebook.
The United States Select Committee on Intelligence also held a concurrent
Both inquiries are yet to report.
A bill currently before the United States Senate, the Honest Ads Act,
proposes to introduce more transparency to the process of purchasing political
advertisements, in response to Facebook's disclosure in September 2017 that
accounts linked to Russia during the 2016 presidential election purchased USD
100,000 worth of political advertisements.
The Parliament of Canada undertook a review into the effect of
technological change on local and regional news in Canada, which published its
final report in June 2017.
The MEAA summed up the principal recommendations of this report as follows:
Tax deductibility for digital advertising in Canadian‐owned media platforms,
tax credits for print media companies to compensate for investing capital and
labour in digital media,
Ensuring foreign news aggregators are subject to the same tax
obligations as Canadian media,
Through expansion and an increased budget for the Canadian
Periodical Fund (which provides assistance and rewards innovation and industry
initiatives to Canadian publishers, magazines and non‐daily newspapers to ensure the public has
access to a range of Canadian publications) make daily and free newspapers
eligible to participate in the fund, and offer support for online distribution
of magazines and newspapers including greater support for ethnic and indigenous
Apply a 'diversity of voices' test to ensure there is no
dominance in any media market, and
Change the definition of a registered charity to include not‐for‐profit media and/or
The Canadian government provided a response to the report in October
2017, noting that its Canada Periodical Fund (which provides support to
Canadian publishers, magazines and non-daily newspapers) was 'exploring options
to better meet the needs of Canadian periodicals to ensure that they can
continue informing, entertaining and educating Canadians'.
It argued that including not-for-profit media organisations as charities would
not necessarily be an effective way of supporting the media.
Canada has a number of other policies in place to support local content,
including some funding to the Canada Media Fund (alongside contributions from
private enterprise), which aims to foster, develop and finance the production
of Canadian content for audiovisual media platforms.
The Canadian government also funds the national broadcaster, the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
One submitter who had researched fake news in the Philippines argued
that '[t]he Philippines has one of the worst fake news problems in the world'.
The submitter observed that in the Philippines, fake news was very profitable,
with up to 500,000 site visits a month for some websites, and up to 90 per cent
of traffic to fake news websites was from Facebook.
The Philippines Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media is
currently holding an inquiry into fake news and impact on the democratic
A police investigation in Indonesia in August 2017 found that fake news
directed towards political figures in Indonesia was part of an organised
campaign, spread through Facebook and other online forums, by a 'fake news
factory' with political motivations. The police reported that the online
syndicate charged tens of millions of rupiah to publish and spread fake news
and hate speech against individuals, including about the former mayor of
Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is now serving a controversial prison
sentence for blasphemy.
In October 2016, the Indonesian parliament passed revisions to the Electronic
Information and Transactions Act (2008). The revisions allow for a prison
sentence of up to four years and a fine of up to 750 million rupiah to be
imposed on individuals found to have spread hate speech or defamation via the
internet, including through sharing fake news. The law has been subject to
considerable controversy and criticism by human rights groups because of recent
cases involving politicians suing private citizens for criticising them on
Concerns that fake news spread through social media has caused a rise in
religious extremism, Islamic terrorism and hate speech led the Indonesian
government in January 2018 to launch a new cyber security agency to address
these issues. The establishment of the agency comes in the lead-up to the 2019
The current president, Joko Widodo, a Javanese Muslim, was subject to fake news
circulating on social media during his 2014 campaign that he was a secret
communist, Chinese or Christian, in a country known for its anti-communist and
anti-Chinese rhetoric and a recent increase in anti-Christian sentiment.
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