Additionally, the ACCC will work with digital platforms to develop and implement a voluntary code to address any concerns that have been identified.
The government’s response to the digital platforms inquiry report, submitted to it by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in June, was announced on Thursday by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Attorney-General Christian Porter and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher. The report was made public on 26 July.
The measures recommended in the government’s response were:
- "Investing $26.9 million in a new special unit in the ACCC to monitor and report on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets, taking enforcement action as necessary, and undertaking inquiries as directed by the treasurer, starting with the supply of online advertising and ad‑tech services.
- "Commencing a staged process to reform media regulation towards a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers.
- "Addressing bargaining power imbalances between digital platforms and news media businesses by asking the ACCC to work with the relevant parties to develop and implement voluntary codes to address these concerns. The ACCC will provide a progress report to government on the code negotiations in May 2020, with the code to be finalised no later than November 2020. If an agreement is not forthcoming, the government will develop alternative options which may include the creation of a mandatory code.
- "Conducting a review of the Privacy Act and ensuring privacy settings empower consumers, protect their data and best serve the Australian economy, which builds on our commitment to increase penalties and introduce a binding social media and online platforms privacy code announced in the 2019-20 Budget."
- develop an uniform classification framework across all media platforms;
- determine the extent of Australian content obligations on free-to-air television broadcasters (including drama and children’s content), and whether there should be Australian content obligations on subscription video-on-demand services; and
- identify other aspects of the policy framework to support Australian film and television content.
"In early 2020, the government will release an options paper co-authored by Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority that will look at how to best support Australian stories on our screens in a modern, multi-platform environment," the statement added.
The Digital Industry Group, a lobby group that represents Google, Facebook and Twitter among others, said it would closely examine the government's response and "continue to contribute to the ongoing consultation with the Government and regulatory bodies".
DIGI managing director Sunita Bose said in a statement: "We recognise the importance of the issues raised in relation to maintaining competition in the news and advertising markets, and ensuring consumer privacy is protected online.
"We’ll be studying the proposals in detail to ensure that the consumer protections are fit for a digital era, and that there are no unintended consequences for Australia’s digital future, economic growth and global competitiveness.
"We welcome an economy-wide review of the Privacy Act, as consumers will have the same expectations of privacy, regardless of the specific company they interact with or the sector within which that company sits.
"At the same time, we also recognise that privacy needs to be central to digital products and services and have been engaging with the OAIC on the Government’s proposed digital platforms code.
"DIGI is supportive of efforts to modernise relevant media laws for a digital era, and we look forward to contributing to the development of a regulatory framework that duly recognises some of the fundamental differences between digital products and media businesses."