Australia to probe Web giants' impact on news, ads, competition

Google, Facebook, named as worthy of inquiry

Australia's government has fulfilled a promise to probe Web giants' impact on the media, news and advertising businesses.

The land down under recently re-wrote its laws on media ownership, to allow greater concentration of ownership. That law was contentious, given that a certain R Murdoch already dominates Australian media. To gain the votes needed to get the law through the Parliament, the government therefore pledged an inquiry into how the media landscape has changed given that advertising spend on digital platforms has gone from zero per cent of the market to forty per cent in under two decades.

Treasurer Scott Morrison MP has now ordered Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to run the promised inquiry.

The Terms of Reference [PDF] require the ACCC to consider “ the impact of digital platforms on the supply of news and journalistic content and the implications of this for media content creators, advertisers and consumers” among other matters.

With Facebook and Google winning the lion's share of that spend, they've been named as especially deserving of an investigation into their influence, but the investigation will consider all “digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content aggregation platforms”.

The ACCC's been given a year to produce a draft report, with a final effort due “by early June 2019.”

That's a long time in the real world, never mind the fast-moving world of online media. It's also a timeframe that will see the final report delivered after Australia's next election. On current trends that means the probe's recommendations will land in the hands of an incoming Labor Party government of rather more progressive political hue than Australia's current elected rulers. ®

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