The country’s media companies have asked the competition watchdog for the catch-all right to negotiate collectively with Facebook and Google over payment for their work.
The News Publishers’ Association (NPA) has filed the application with the Commerce Commission on behalf of its members and “all other New Zealand-owned media organisations”, to allow a bloc approach to dealing with the two digital giants.
Google announced in March that it intended launching its Google News Showcase app in New Zealand, in what appeared intended as a small olive leaf to the news media.
That would see it pay some mainstream media organisations to provide it with curated news that it would display in panels in its Google News app, and later within its main internet search site.
Its initiative seemed in part an attempt to head-off a broader confrontation with the news media and governments over the impact its advertising model has had on journalism revenues internationally.
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Facebook has a similar, though not identical, product in its Facebook News service, but would not confirm at the time whether it would follow Google.
Google has earmarked a total of US$1 billion (NZ$1.4b) over three years globally for its service, which has been launched in countries including Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Britain and Australia.
But that has raised the prospect of New Zealand news publishers competing with one another for a share of that – as well as any other funding for their content – that might be available here.
The NPA has asked the Commerce Commission for broad permission for the New Zealand industry to negotiate collectively with Facebook and Google, over the next 10 years.
Such permission would in effect exempt them from falling foul of restrictive trade practice provisions in the Commerce Act.
Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher made clear that they did not see the requested right to collective bargaining being restricted to negotiations over Google News Showcase and Facebook News.
“The application is about allowing us to go in and start to negotiate for fair payment and it’s not specific, at this stage, to any specific format or product,” she said.
NPA general manager Brook Cameron said collective bargaining might address the “power imbalances” that would otherwise exist in negotiations with Facebook and Google, and help achieve fair payment for “Kiwi journalism used on their platforms”.
“Together these two giants have revenue that is greater than New Zealand’s GDP,” she said.
“These global tech giants have built businesses of unimaginable size and amassed their dominant power using ‘free press’ on their platforms – news made and paid for by media companies.”
The Commerce Commission has invited submissions on the application by December 1.
On Thursday it temporarily gave chicken farmers belonging to the Tegel Growers Association a similar right to negotiate collectively over the supply of chickens to Tegel Foods.
That was while it considered their application for a permanent exemption. The commission said it was the first time it had given such a right on a temporary basis.