Sunday 20th of June 2021

"the media heist" — a theatre play by uncle rupe...

shit newsshit news
Morrison’s media code could be catastrophic for climate and energy news


By GILES PARKINSON | On 26 February 2021

Morrison’s government could hardly have wished for a better outcome. The core of their supplicant media is to receive millions to continue their cheering from the sidelines, while independent voices such as RenewEconomy risk being squeezed by these secret deals. Yet big media companies and the competition regulator claim this to be some sort of victory for media diversity and the democratic process.“News Showcase is a product for public interest journalism, so there may not be a great fit.”

And with that one short email from the Singapore-based head of Google News for the Asia-Pacific region to RenewEconomy management, rejecting our request to even hold discussions with the company, the full catastrophe of what the Coalition government’s new media bargaining code could represent for media diversity in Australia became apparent.

RenewEconomy has spent nearly a decade reporting on climate policies and the clean energy transition, the two dominant themes of the 21st century that have deep economic, environmental and health impacts for everyone. We have held politicians, regulators,  institutions, and the renewables industry to account, and built up a sizeable following in the process – more than 20 million page views across its publications in 2020.

If this is not public interest journalism, what is?

Google is making those decisions and among those chosen for its new Google Showcase, and to get paid to be there, is the youth-focused website Junkee. Its lead story on Wednesday?

“Was Joss Whedon the real big bad of “Buffy”.”

Its No. 2 story?

“We reckon we’ve worked out who cheats on MAFS this season.”

Also on Google Showcase, and reportedly getting paid millions by Google to feature on its “public interest” news platform, is News Corp and its toxic Sky News Australia, the source of the kind of lies and misinformation that RenewEconomy has been debunking for years.

It seemed no coincidence that last week, as Ketan Joshi has reported, the top rating story on Google for “solar news” was this piece of invention from Sky News Australia, falsely claiming the failure of German renewables during a cold winter front. It was a story that contained not a shred of evidence. It sat on the top of the Google search for solar news for four days.

Is this the future of journalism in Australia? We hope not, but it doesn’t bode well. But let’s recall how we got here.

The Coalition government announced some time ago its plans for its “Media Bargaining Code”, apparently under pressure from News Corp.

News, and other big media players – Seven, Nine and the Guardian among them – claimed that their content was being “stolen” by internet giants Google and Facebook, and they demanded that the government introduce a law that required them to be paid for their journalism.

This claim is nonsense, as the likes of Crikey have pointed out. If the big media companies didn’t want links to their stories to appear on Facebook, they could have removed the pages they have built on that platform. If they didn’t want their stories to be found on Google, a simple line of code – a few minutes work – would have done the trick.

But no, as Crikey has noted, this is effectively a shakedown of “big tech” by “big media” under the cover of supporting public interest journalism. Or “hush money” as Michael West Media describes it. It appears mostly designed by big media to line their own pockets and protect their prime positions in the media landscape.

And what was once claimed to be a fillip to media diversity has turned – predictably and disturbingly – into the opposite. Google will choose who it wants to be on Showcase. Facebook says it is creating a similar platform, but has made clear it will only “support the publishers we choose to”.

On what criteria are these decisions being made? Who defines the public interest? What happens to the smaller publishers that are not the chosen ones? Does Showcase and Facebook News now mean that those publications paid by Google and Facebook will get priority over others?

Will the social media reach and readership of websites such as RenewEconomy be diminished because of this? Will our content now be harder to find? Will Google and Facebook still be required to make payments for links for all media? Neither company seems to think so, and Facebook’s statement makes it clear it won’t, it will just sign up enough to please the Treasurer.

But, again, we ask: under what criteria?

We don’t know the answer to any of these questions. Nobody seems to know. And the ability of Facebook and Google to recognise and understand public interest journalism – fundamental, it would seem, to the new code, is questionable.

After Ketan Joshi wrote about the Sky News post, and how it was promoted by Google, he found a way to link to the story from Facebook. But his take-down of the Sky News nonsense, and Google’s role in promoting it, was quickly branded as “false information”.

(This was likely done by a machine that recognised a fake image published by Sky News that Joshi had used to highlight the fake news. The link provided by Facebook explaining why Joshi’s post had been labelled “false information” went to an AFR “fact check” that actually supported his story. But the damage was done).

So, if neither Google nor Facebook can recognise what public interest journalism is, or what is true or false information, then how can this code be claimed to protect it?

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher crowed on Thursday – after the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code passed through parliament – that it would “sustain public interest journalism”. They were pleased that deals had been struck by Google and Facebook with their chosen media companies.

“Our commitment to legislating the Code reflects the importance of a diverse and well-resourced news media sector to our democracy and the Australian people,” they said.

There is a strong case to support public interest journalism in Australia, but this is not the way to do it.

As Chris Warren, formerly the head of the media union, wrote in Crikey:

“Australia has ended up with the worst possible deal — one that strengthens both old media and big tech monopolies, particularly their most socially malign elements in News Corp and Facebook.”

This could prove to be a disaster for public interest journalism in Australia, and may lead to the perverse outcome of protecting big media, rather than leaving it open to more competition.

As Crikey notes, it could have a devastating impact on smaller publications. Even the media union, the MEEA, has finally woken up to this possibility and the implications of media being left at the mercy of Facebook and Google as they seek to avoid mandatory regulation and choose which media companies they come to agreements with.

“This will particularly affect small publishers if the Treasurer deems that Google and Facebook have done enough not to be named as respondents to the News Media Mandatory Code,” the MEEA said.

“For small publishers who fail to make side deals with the tech giants, they could be locked out, further entrenching the narrow ownership base of the Australian media market.”

A government like Morrison’s could hardly have wished for a better outcome. The core of their supplicant media is to receive millions to continue on their cheering from the sidelines, independent voices such as RenewEconomy risk being squeezed by the nature of these secret deals and decisions, even as big media companies and the competition regulator claim this to be some sort of victory for media diversity and the democratic process.

It risks being nothing of the sort. As it stands, it’s astonishing, it’s dangerous, and it’s demoralising. From where we sit, it’s bad for climate and it’s bad for the clean energy transition – the great challenges of our time. And it’s bad for democracy.

dealing and wheezing...

Social media giant Facebook has announced its first proposed deal with an Australian news organization after the tech company lifted its journalism ban on the site over the government’s proposed media code legislation.

Hours after Facebook reversed its controversial decision to prohibit Australians from accessing news content on the platform, the company announced its first proposed deal with one of the nation’s media organizations, Seven West Media.

Alongside the statement on the discussions with Seven West Media, Facebook also revealed it is working to secure similar deals with other national and local news organizations in Australia.

“As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days,” Facebook Australia’s managing director, Will Easton, said in a statement.

Currently, the agreement is only outlined in a letter of intent between Seven West Media and Facebook, with it being subject to a long-form agreement being signed between the two companies in the next 60 days. 

It is not yet clear what the terms of the deal are, as the statement released by Seven West Media simply stated that it “will provide more details following the execution of the agreement.” The only information provided is that it will allow the media company to build its “digital platform.”


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The ABC should withdraw from negotiating any contractual revenue-sharing with Google and Facebook.

The ABC is now a leader in the Australian online news industry, but there is an obvious risk of compromise to the ABC Charter from this precedent-setting commercial relationship.

Defunded by the Federal Government from the 2014 Budget, with the consequential destructive loss of original Australian programs and experienced program makers, plus the imposition of a vicious “indexation pause” from the 2018 Budget, the ABC has been significantly weakened in the range of quality content it can offer audiences. While many will be grateful for any respite from Google revenue, ABC Alumni, representing former ABC production staff and program makers, believes that this source of the revenue, ad spend, carries unacceptable risk.

The ABC has indicated its intention to apply any revenue earned from Google to regional services. The current Communications Minister, Paul Fletcher, has indicated the Federal Government would not withdraw any Google revenue from the ABC.

Noted. But the precedent set by the ABC entering into a contract to share Google’s ad revenue will set the ABC on a commercial path and make it easier for any hostile future federal government to demand more commerciality, not less. ABC commercial deals for revenue in the evolving digital economy will only soften up the ABC for privatisation, an objective pushed by those fundamentally hostile to a public broadcaster or “cybercaster".

The ABC has been placed in these compromises before. The 2000 Telstra content deal negotiated by then Managing Director Brian Johns would have given the ABC a substantial commercial revenue stream (then A$67m p.a.). Fortunately, it was rejected by the ABC Board as giving Telstra too much leverage over ABC content.

In 1995, an ABC subsidiary company AIM Pay TV entered into a commercial partnership with Fairfax Media and Cox Communications US to establish a pay TV news service. The ABC was forced to abandon this venture when its potential domestic cable carriers (Foxtel and Optus) withdrew.

ABC Alumni believes the ABC’s future viability must come from adequate untied funding from Australia’s consolidated revenue as a public good, with no commercial agendas. It is important that our private sector media companies prosper in the digital economy and it is hoped that the revenue sharing code delivers recurrent funding to complement the ABC’s original content creation.

Australia’s public broadcasting/cybercasting system, through both the ABC and SBS, each with legislated obligations to provide comprehensive services and original Australian-made content, is a major contributor to media diversity in this country and should not be put at any risk in the current disruptive media industry environment.


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the aussie government's delusion...

With the dust settling on the news media bargaining code battle royale, both Facebook and the Australian government have declared victory.

Key points:

  • Last-minute concessions mean media bargaining code may never be used
  • Regional media companies lose out under the deal
  • Google, Facebook, government and big media businesses are winners

The legislation passed the Senate on Tuesday night, meaning the government can now make Facebook and Google negotiate with news producers to pay for content that appears on search engines or social media.

It's seemingly the end of a series of threats and standoffs that culminated in 11th-hour negotiations between Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg this week, after the social media giant banned Australian news on its platform.

The government got its bargaining code, news businesses will get their cheque, and Facebook gets a few key concessions.

So who won and who lost?

Did Facebook or the government blink first?

What concessions did Facebook win?

Facebook had been dead against the proposed code for months, threatening to block links to news articles over a code it said was unworkable.

But this week (after banning news), the company had a change of heart.

It decided the code was, in fact, workable — at least with a few amendments.

In a series of calls between Mr Zuckerberg and Mr Frydenberg, the social media behemoth negotiated small but important changes that mean there's a good chance the code may never be used at all, said Tama Leaver, a professor of internet studies at Curtin University.

Among them was the provision that before a digital platform is made subject to the code, the Treasurer must first take into account whether it has reached commercial agreements with news media businesses.

"The code will sit in the Treasurer's desk and he can pull the trigger whenever a platform is big enough to squeeze for money," Professor Leaver said.



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murdoch is happy...

Australia’s parliament officially passed a landmark law Thursday effectively forcing tech titans to pay for news content following intense public opposition from Facebook and Google.

The first-of-its-kind measure cleared its last hurdle when the parliament approved a set of amendments made to appease Facebook, which blocked Australian users from viewing or sharing news articles last week.

Aussie lawmakers said the law that’s set to go into effect will address the “bargaining power imbalance” between tech platforms and news publishers even though its final form gives Facebook and Google more leeway to negotiate.

“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement.

Officials pushed the law forward even after Facebook imposed a roughly five-day news blackout in Australia, an unprecedented move that sparked widespread outrage.

Google had similarly threatened to shut off its search engine in Australia if the proposal became law, but the Silicon Valley giant ended up taking the more conciliatory approach of making deals with publishers including News Corp., which owns The Post.


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three little wishes for the master...

a sop to uncle rupe...


The News Media Bargaining Code will only further cement what the backward NBN began: a smaller, less informed, more conservative and less democratic Australia. Managing editor Michelle Pini and founder and director David Donovan report.

WHEN the Coalition’s News Media Bargaining Code first reared its bent, unwanted head, last September, Independent Australia saw it for what it was — a sop to Murdoch.

A way for the Coalition to prop up their failing corporate owner and public relations agency, the Murdoch media.

A way for minor executives in the News Corp apparatus, Morrison and Frydenberg, to further curry favour with their big boss, Rupert Murdoch, by dipping into the fortunes of Google and Facebook. And a way to curtail the increasingly annoying dissident voices of emerging news media, like Independent Australia, at the same time.

The proposed News Media Bargaining Code is utterly illogical. It only covers Facebook and Google — one a social media company and the other a search engine. It does not cover Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Liker, TikTok, Reddit and the gamut of other search engines and social media outlets. Why? Simply because Facebook and Google are the most successful, have put a hole in the advertising budgets of old media dinosaurs like News Corp and Fairfax, and so they want their share.

It is nothing more than a Murdoch tax on two major competitors. This is not the free market at work – Adam Smith’s invisible hand – this is just nepotism and cronyism. Yet another Liberal Party rort.

The rest of the world had no illusions about the intent of the Morrison Government’s bargaining code — to advantage sympathetic media organisations. However, Australia’s mainstream media (AKA sympathetic media organisations) have published nothing but puff pieces over how Josh and ScoMo socked it to Facebook and Google.

Australia really does need a royal commission into media diversity in this country. Last week’s Senate Inquiry disappeared with barely a trace.

But, you may be thinking, at least media companies are now getting paid for content by Google and Facebook. Isn’t that good for public interest journalism? And yes, the “bargaining” bit of the code has begun in earnest, with the usual billionaires and multinationals securing the early deals for who knows how much.

But shoring up more dollars for the media barons who already have the most dollars does not, despite the puff pieces, equate to more public interest journalism.


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filling uncle rupe's coffers...

Facebook has agreed to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp Australia for journalism from its local mastheads.

The deal has been secured just weeks after Australia passed a controversial world-first law aimed at making tech platforms pay for news content.

News Corp has not disclosed the value of the three-year contract in Australia. Last month, it clinched a global deal with Google.

Mr Murdoch's media empire began with his Australian newspapers.

The deal covers all of News Corp's content in the country - which is a significant amount.

News Corp Australia controls about 70% of newspaper circulation in Australia with mastheads including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun. It also owns

It also owns the Fox News-modelled conservative TV network Sky News Australia, which has grown to become the most-shared Australian news brand on Facebook.

News Corp already has a different deal with Facebook for its US media titles. It involves the platform paying for stories to include in its Facebook News tab - a product not available in Australia. 

The Australian deal is far more broad - it covers all News Corp Australia content shared on Facebook.

How has this been achieved?

Like other publishers globally, Australian media outlets have lost revenue in the past decade as advertisers turned to internet giants such as Facebook and Google.

News Corp spearheaded a lobbying campaign in Australia - with support from its traditional rivals - to get politicians to make the tech firms pay for news content from its sites.

The Australian government then drew up legislation it said aimed to enshrine "fairer" contract negotiations between media and tech companies.

Both Google and Facebook had been strongly resistant to the media bargaining code.

It encourages tech firms to strike their own commercial deals with media outlets, such as this one between Facebook and News Corp. 

Without such deals, the law would potentially force tech firms into forced arbitration with publishers over the value of content.

Battles over the law's design led Facebook to suddenly block all access to Australian news content on its site last month.

The news ban lasted for about a week before the Australian government made concessions and passed the law on 25 February.


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a novel idea...


If Twitter wants the government of Nigeria to lift its ban against the site, it should register as a local entity and be licensed in the country, Information Minister Lai Mohammed has said amid a spat with the social media giant. 

The minister told journalists on Wednesday that Twitter has reached out to the government for talks after Nigerian telecom firms were ordered to suspend access to the platform on Friday. The ban was announced a few days after the social media company removed a tweet by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in which he appeared to threaten to punish separatists.

“First and foremost, Twitter must register as a company in Nigeria. It will be licensed by the broadcasting commission,” Mohammed said of the conditions that must be met before lifting the ban.

The company also “must agree not to allow its platform to be used by those who are promoting activities that are inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria,” he added.


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Twitter is very concerned about its recent blocking in Nigeria, calling the free and open internet an “essential human right.” Back in the US, commentators pointed out, Twitter doesn’t care as much about this “right.” 

Nigeria’s government “indefinitely” banned Twitter on Friday, after the US tech giant temporarily suspended President Muhammadu Buhari for a tweet promising a crackdown on armed separatists. Telecoms networks in the West African nation began enforcing the ban on Saturday morning, according to multiple media reports.


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Even Trump did not have the courageous fortitude...


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Free Julian Assange Now ““““‘‘‘‘‘‘««««««««»»»»»»»»»!!!!!