Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb power of Google, Facebook

Updated 11 February 2019
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Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb power of Google, Facebook

  • The ACCC could also recommend that platforms provide a “quality” badge alongside content produced by recognized news media as a counter to disinformation

SYDNEY: The head of Australia’s competition watchdog warned Monday that tough new regulation of tech giants like Google and Facebook was needed to protect the future of independent journalism.
Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), said the market power wielded by Google and Facebook has had a devastating impact on Australian news media.
While the number of journalists employed by Australian newspapers fell 20 percent from 2014 to 2017 as print advertising revenues dwindled, Sims said, Google and Facebook between them captured nearly 70 percent of all online advertising spend.
“This shift in advertising revenue online, and to digital platforms, has reduced the ability of media businesses to fund news and journalism,” Sims said in remarks prepared for delivery to Sydney’s International Institute of Communications.
“We cannot simply leave the production of news and journalism to market forces,” added Sims, whose agency has been carrying out a lengthy probe of the impact of digital platforms on the news industry in Australia.
While the platforms capture the vast majority of advertising revenue, they do not create any original news, Sims said.
“Rather they select, curate, evaluate, rank and arrange news stories produced by third parties,” he said, noting that this market power increased the “risk of filter bubbles and unreliable news on digital platforms.”
“Holding such critical positions in both the media and advertising markets results in special responsibilities,” he said.
The ACCC launched its inquiry into the power of digital platforms a year ago, and is accepting final submissions from industry players until the end of this week, before issuing its final report in June.
But Sims signalled on Monday that the final recommendations would include calls for broad new regulations on the digital behemoths and the opaque algorithms they use in disseminating news and advertising.
“Virtually no media regulation applies to digital platforms and this contributes to regulatory disparity between media sectors that would appear to provide the digital platforms with an unfair advantage,” he said.
A media regulator, he said, should have the power to compel platforms to reveal how news is ranked in search results, including whether advertiser-funded content is ranked higher than paid content, or if original news content is outranked by copycat stories and so-called clickbait.
The ACCC could also recommend that platforms provide a “quality” badge alongside content produced by recognized news media as a counter to disinformation.
Finally, Sims suggested a series of proposals to support local and independent journalism, including tax offsets for people who subscribe to news media which meet a set of quality standards.


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).