The Australian Parliament on Thursday approved legislation that would require tech giants like Facebook and Google for news content.

In a joint statement by Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts announced the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code has been passed to address the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms.

The landmark legislation “will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

“Our news media code is all about leveling the playing field and ensuring digital giants pay news media businesses for generating original content,” Frydenberg said in a tweet.

The legislation has been hotly debated in recent months with tech giants like Google and Facebook opposing the initial version of the law.

The law mandates Facebook and Google to allow media outlets to bargain either individually or collectively with them — and to enter binding arbitration if the parties couldn’t reach an agreement.

See Related Story: Google Strikes Deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for News Content Payment

This resulted in a five-day restriction of news content on Facebook for Australian users which was only lifted after discussions between Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week.

The Australian Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code agreed between Treasurer Frydenberg and Zuckerberg on Tuesday. In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news.

With the new law passed by the Australian parliament, the country becomes the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail. Canada and other countries have shown interest in replicating Australia’s reforms.

The news code encourages tech giants and news organizations to negotiate payment deals between themselves and commits Facebook and Google to invest tens of millions of dollars in local digital content.

If negotiations fail, an independent arbitrator can set the price they pay domestic media – something analysts say benefits the newsgroups. The government argues this prescribes a “fairer” negotiation process between the parties, as it gives news organizations more leverage.

Facebook said it had signed partnership agreements with Schwartz Media, Solstice Media, and Private Media. The trio owns a mix of publications, including weekly newspapers, online magazines, and specialist periodicals.

Facebook did not disclose the financial details of the agreements, which will become effective within 60 days if a full deal is signed.

“These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the social media company said in a statement.


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JM Agreda is a freelance journalist for more than 12 years writing for numerous international publications, research journals, and news websites. He mainly covers business, tech, transportation, and political news for Businessner.