Home Technology Regulation Google, Facebook distorting digital ad market: Free TV Australia

Google and Facebook are distorting the digital advertising market by writing their own standards and forcing advertisers to use their vertically integrated products to get access to their own platforms, Free TV Australia says in a submission to the ACCC's digital platforms inquiry.

Free TV, which represents all commercial TV stations across Australia, said the competition watchdog should intervene to ensure that competition for advertising revenue took place "in a fair and effective manner".

The ACCC on Thursday released 57 submissions made to the inquiry. There are now only 56 online as the SBS submission has been pulled and no reason given for it. The ACCC has said that it plans to release a preliminary report on its findings by December.

Like many other submissions, Free TV Australia took aim at Google and Facebook for what it called "a significant and irreversible effect on traditional media companies".

"The diversion of advertising revenue to these dominant digital titans away from newspapers, radio and television directly impacts the delivery of local, trusted, fair, accurate and impartial news content that is vital to our democracy," it said.

"It also impacts the local entertainment, sport and drama programs that contribute so much to our sense of national identity."

Free TV said the ACCC's main priority should be to address the lack of tools to provide reliable information on the "true reach and viewability of advertising on the Facebook and Google platforms".

"The ACCC should require Facebook and Google to implement third-party Software Development Kits and transparent measurement of Web traffic to allow robust and reliable measurement and verification. It is not acceptable for these dominant platforms to set and supposedly verify their own measurement tools."

It accused Google and Facebook of being parasites when it came to using media content produced by other companies. "...Google and Facebook monetise content created by others, without meaningfully investing in its creation or licensing its use. To add insult to injury, these platforms earn significant revenue by facilitating access to illegal pirated content," its submission said.

The organisation provided the following recommendations to the ACCC:

Restoring balance to the regulatory framework – consider the extent to which the existing regulations that apply to local media companies are still required in the modern media environment, where local companies compete against entirely unregulated digital media companies.

Establishing independent digital advertising metrics – require Google and Facebook to establish transparent measurement of Web traffic and the inclusion of SDKs across all of their advertising products to allow robust, verifiable and consistent measurement against independently set standards for reach and viewability.

Increasing transparency of marketing conduct – recommend legislation to require that the marketing practices of digital advertising platforms be regulated by a Code of Conduct authorised by the ACCC.

Enabling genuine negotiation on terms and conditions – provide guidance on the terms under which the ACCC would authorise collective bargaining by local media outlets with Google and Facebook and consider how a dispute resolution role could be administered by the ACCC, including in relation to regulated pricing or character limits for third party content.

Bringing greater transparency to algorithms – require that Google and Facebook publish clear information on how their algorithms function and provide time to consult with affected parties and explain the impact of any changes on related businesses in the supply chain.

Addressing vertical integration competition issues – fully map out the digital supply chain and closely investigate bundling and potential full-line forcing competition issues.

Requiring independence and minimum service levels in setting technical standards where the digital supply chain involves buyers and sellers with common ownership, interoperability and technical standards must be set independently and with minimum service levels.

Applying the right market definition and collaborating with international regulators ACCC and other counterpart regulators should review the market definition and competition tests they apply to protect new entrant innovators from being acquired by already dominant digital players.

Holding digital media companies to account for piracy – recommend law changes to ensure that the party that facilitates access to pirated material is liable for the loss to the rights holder.

Maintaining the integrity of Australia’s copyright system – find that the current safe harbour framework strikes the right balance and that there should be no further extension of the scheme to digital media companies.

Bringing transparency to data collection by Google and Facebook – Review whether the current privacy framework is sufficient for the scale of data collection undertaken by Google and Facebook and whether consumers are given adequate information on the full extent of the data they are handing over.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.


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