/ 21 June 2024

The news behind the news…


The Squiz 

The bosses of 3 of our biggest news companies – Nine Entertainment’s Mike Sneesby, Seven West Media’s Jeffrey Howard and News Corp Australia’s Michael Miller – will appear before a parliamentary committee looking into social media and its effects on Australian society that kicks off today. Also getting the call-up are Australia’s competition and media regulators along with the Digital Publishers Alliance, the peak body representing independent news publishers. The inquiry, being chaired by Labor’s Kate Thwaites, is the culmination of a few big themes that have been bouncing around the news this year. 

Like what?

So in February, Meta – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – announced it would not re-sign deals with Australian publishers to host their content on its platforms. You can read up on it here, but Meta had inked 3-year deals with publishers in 2021 after the introduction of the News Media Bargaining Code by the Morrison Government. Given publishers had been encouraged for years to build an audience and distribute their content on Facebook, Meta’s decision – and the suggestion it could take news off its platforms altogether – has angered politicians and media bosses alike. Then in April, the social media companies were in the spotlight after mis/disinformation spread on the Bondi Junction and Wakeley terror attacks. At the time, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said “just about every problem that we have as a country is either being exacerbated or caused by social media”. 

So where is this going? 

It’s a great question because it’s a heady mix of issues… First and foremost the Albanese Government has to make a call about how those companies do business here, including whether to/how to ban kids’ access to social media. News publishers are a big part of the conversation because how Aussies access their news and who pays for it is an existential question… And then you’ve got lil’ ole us – everyday news consumers/citizens – who just want to stay informed and not be exposed to gross/violent/wildly false information online. So there’s a bit to unpick… The first cab off the rank is responding to Meta’s breach of the News Media Bargaining Code, and then it’s about safety and mis/disinformation. And it’ll happen quickly – for a government process, anyway… An interim report from this committee will be out in mid-August, and the final in November. 

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