Facebook signs pay deals with three Oz news publishers

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Facebook announced yesterday preliminary agreements with three Australian publishers, a day after the Parliament passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news.

Facebook said letters of intent had been signed with independent news organisations Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media. The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said.

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

Schwartz Media Chief Executive Rebecca Costello said the deal would help her company continue to produce independent journalism. “It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” Costello said.

Private Media Chief Executive Will Hayward said the new deal built on an existing Facebook partnership.

Front pages of Australian newspapers are displayed featuring stories about Facebook in Sydney. PHOTO: AP

Australia’s Parliament on Thursday had passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a six-day-old ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Access to Australian news sites did not appear to be fully restored until yesterday.

Google, the only other digital giant targetted by the legislation, has already struck content licensing deals, or is close to deals, with some of Australia’s biggest news publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Seven West Media.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new Australian law was critical to the deals that Australian media businesses were negotiating with the two gateways to the Internet.

Under the law, if a platform can’t reach agreement with a news business, an arbitration panel can be appointed to set a legally binding price for journalism.

“Global tech giants are changing the world, but we can’t let them run the world,” Morrison told reporters.

“People in free societies like Australia, who go to ballot boxes and who go and they vote, that’s who should run the world,” Morrison added.