Australia’s competition watchdog wants to see if tech is destroying journalism

Too much disruption?
Too much disruption?
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Australia’s governmental competition watchdog is stepping into the debate about the future of news media by launching a probe to determine whether Facebook and Google have disrupted the industry.

“We will examine whether platforms are exercising market power in commercial dealings to the detriment of consumers, media content creators and advertisers,” Rod Sims, head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on Monday, Dec. 4. 

“Through our inquiry, the ACCC will look closely at the impact of digital platforms on the level of choice and quality of news and content being produced by Australian journalists,” Sims said, expressing a more global unease about the relationship between social media and publishers.

The Australian government ordered the inquiry in September, as part of a larger media law reform effort, brought on by concerns about the state and quality of journalism in the country, where 2,000 media jobs have been cut since 2011.

The shift in advertising from print to digital has hurt news organizations globally because Facebook and Google have attracted the lion’s share of digital ad dollars. “As the media sector evolves, there are growing concerns that digital platforms are affecting traditional media’s ability to fund the development of content,” Sims said. A final report from the probe is expected in June 2019.

Governments worldwide are grappling with the rapid rise of Silicon Valley internet giants that insist that they aren’t media companies even as they dominate media distribution and resist regulation. The United States has been probing Russian interference via digital media in the 2016 presidential election as well as the spread of fake news. In Europe, government entities have fined them billions of euros for missteps related to their quest for market dominance.