By Colin Packham and Byron Kaye
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 will restore Australian news sites after Canberra proposed changes to a bill to force tech giants to pay for media content displayed on their platforms, treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Tuesday.
Australia and the social media group have been in a stalemate for more than a week after the government enacted laws challenging Google’s dominance in the news content market through Facebook and Alphabet (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc. nL8N2KO5O3]
Facebook blocked all news content and multiple accounts from the state government and emergency room last week.
However, after a series of talks between Frydenberg and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the weekend, a concession agreement was signed.
Australia will table four amendments, including a change to the mandatory arbitration mechanism that will be used when the tech giants fail to reach an agreement with publishers on fair pay for displaying news content.
“We are pleased that the Australian Government has approved a number of changes and warranties that address our key concerns about enabling commercial transactions that recognize the value of our platform to publishers in relation to the value we receive from them.” said Facebook in a statement posted online.
The changes provide for a two-month mediation period before the government-appointed arbitrator intervenes, giving the parties more time to reach a private settlement.
The rule is also inserted that an internet company’s contribution to the “sustainability of the Australian news industry” is taken into account through existing deals.
The issue has been widely watched internationally as other countries, including Canada and the UK, consider similar laws.
“These changes will give digital platforms and news media companies more clarity on how the code works and strengthen the framework for ensuring fair compensation for news media companies,” Frydenberg said in a statement.
Australia had announced by Monday that it would not make any further changes to the legislation.
A spokesman for Australian publisher and broadcaster Nine Entertainment Co. welcomed the government’s compromise, which “put Facebook back into negotiations with Australian media organizations”.
A Google spokesman declined to comment.
The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission, Rod Sims, the main architect of the law, was not immediately available for comment. In a speech the previous Tuesday, Sims declined to answer questions about the stalemate as it was in front of parliament.
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