Australia’s New Soft Power: Bargaining Codes Start to Spread Globally

Anya Schiffrin is the director of the media and technology specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Two years after Australia passed its News Media Bargaining Code, which pushed Google and Meta to inject some $140 million US dollars into the Australian news media ecosystem, other countries are set to move ahead with their own versions of the law. Canada and the UK are expected to pass bills by the end of the year. Bargaining Codes have become a hot topic in South Africa, while a vote on a Brazilian law is expected on May 2.  Australian academic Andrea Carson describes Australia’s code as “world-first legislation” because it is based on competition (antitrust) rather than copyright laws. The proposal was met with strong resistance by Google and Facebook (now Meta), possibly because they were afraid the idea would spread. Facebook even cut off Australian news for a few days in 2021 despite public emergencies including bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. The law came into effect shortly afterwards, in March 2021, and since then more than 30 agreements have been signed covering dozens of outlets. An Australian Treasury review in December 2022 called the Code a “success” and recommended that it be expanded in the future. The report noted that most of the deals were struck by Google while Meta provided much less funding. (Journalists interviewed for this article said that Google is now offering to set up funds to support journalism in South Africa and Brazil in an apparent effort…Australia’s New Soft Power: Bargaining Codes Start to Spread Globally