Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp says a landmark three-year agreement with Facebook to pay for its Australian content will transform the terms of trade for journalism.
Facebook has also reportedly made a confidential deal with Nine Entertainment, Australia’s biggest locally-owned media giant, but the parent company won’t confirm an agreement has been reached.
The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age reported its publisher, Nine, had signed a letter of intent to pay for content after weeks of tense negotiations. The company won’t confirm until a long-form agreement with Facebook is reached and the stock exchange is informed, a spokeswoman said.
News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said the deal would have a “material and meaningful impact” on its Australian business.
“Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch led a global debate while others in our industry were silent or supine as digital dysfunctionality threatened to turn journalism into a mendicant order,” Thomson said.
The deal marks the end of a stand-off between Facebook and news publishers over growing demands to share some of their revenue with Australian news outlets.
Google made $4.3bn in advertising revenue in Australia last year and Facebook made $0.7bn, according to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
News Corp Australia is the largest media company to sign an agreement with Facebook since the Morrison government passed the legislation that would require Google and Facebook to negotiate with news outlets for payment last month.
The spectre of the law initially saw Facebook strip Australian news from its platform in an eight-day blackout that only ended after high-level talks with the federal government.
Negotiations had stalled for a fortnight after Facebook initially signed Seven West Media and three independent publishers – Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media.
Facebook still has to sign with Nine Entertainment, the ABC, SBS and smaller independent publishers including Guardian Australia in order to comply with the news media code.
“[Facebook founder] Mark Zuckerberg and his team deserve credit for their role in helping to fashion a future for journalism, which has been under extreme duress for more than a decade,” Thomson said.
The deal will see Facebook display articles from the Australian newspaper, news.com.au, major metropolitan mastheads the Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, the Courier-Mail and regional and community publications in Facebook News.
“We are grateful to the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, treasurer Josh Frydenberg and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims and his team for taking a principled stand for publishers, small and large, rural and urban, and for Australia,” Thomson said. “This digital denouement has been more than a decade in the making.”
The deal also includes extending an exisiting agreement between Facebook and Sky News Australia.
In 2019 News Corp separately reached an agreement with Facebook for its publications in the United States for payments in exchange for access to additional stories for Facebook News.
The global publisher said it now has deals with Facebook, Google and Apple to provide access to its journalism.
The head of news partnerships Australia and New Zealand, Andrew Hunter, said the company is committed to bringing Facebook News to Australia.
“Together, the agreements with News Corp Australia and Sky News Australia mean that people on Facebook will gain access to premium news articles and breaking news video from News Corp’s network of national, metropolitan, rural and suburban newsrooms,” Hunter said.
The news media law has been designed to address the loss of advertising revenue from traditional media companies to the digital behemoths: for every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 to Facebook and $19 to everyone else.
The revenue from Google and Facebook will help to employ more journalists and to continue to support public interest journalism in Australia, publishers say.