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.


Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

Updated 20 April 2019
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Arab News at 44: Online Pakistan edition has formed its own regional identity

  • Arab News expanded its footprint entering Pakistan in mid 2017
  • Its Pakistan Edition was founded on February 2018 and has been a major success

ISLAMABAD: Arab News’ online Pakistan edition, which launched on Feb. 8, 2018, has established itself as a credible extension of the Riyadh-based newspaper, which today marks its 44th anniversary.
Arab News entered Pakistan as part of the newspaper’s ongoing global and digital expansion, and to tap news from other parts of Asia, hiring skilled journalists and freelance contributors.
An exclusive interview in October 2018 with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who was newly elected as prime minister at the time, catapulted Arab News in Pakistan.
Realizing the news potential in the country, Arab News capitalized on its success and set up a bureau, but not before landing more special reports that grabbed the local media’s attention and attracted a larger readership.
The website www.arabnews.pk became the parent organization’s first in a series of country-specific online editions that the newspaper is planning to launch, and is part of its “more digital, more global” strategy.
Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, who on Thursday was appointed minister for science and technology, officially inaugurated the newspaper’s Pakistan bureau earlier this year.
Led by award-winning veteran journalist Baker Atyani, and under the guidance of Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, the team at the Pakistan edition has worked diligently to penetrate the country’s vibrant news market.
As such, followership of the newspaper’s Pakistan social media account has quickly ballooned.
Its online coverage of the first visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in February was widely praised.
Arab News published special reports and features on the deep-rooted and diversifying ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Also a major hit was Abbas’s exclusive, lengthy sit-down with President Dr. Arif Alvi during the crown prince’s visit.
Another exclusive that garnered a serious online buzz was on Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offering to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan.
The Pakistan edition has kept a special focus on business and finance, and has spoken with movers and shakers, including those in the corridors of power.
In August 2018, it exposed the ruling party’s hit single “Rok Sako To Rok Lo Tabdeeli Aayi Re,” produced for the last general election, as being suspiciously similar to a remixed version of the Indian religious song “Bankya Maa Re Nach. The report was instantly picked up by Pakistani media.
Days before the election, Atyani conducted a one-on-one exclusive with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Arab News’ Pakistan edition is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG). With the edition’s success, the SRMG is looking to replicate the model across Asia.