Wednesday, 21 October 2020 15:43

ACCC chief says mandatory media code going to plan Featured

ACCC chairman Rod Sims. ACCC chairman Rod Sims. Courtesy YouTube

The calendar for progressing the mandatory media code into legislation has been delayed a bit, ACCC chairman Rod Sims admits, adding that he still expected to see the law presented to Parliament in time for it to be in place before the end of the year.

He attributed the delay to the presentation of the national budget coming up this month and said it had nothing to do with the objections to the code put up by Google or Facebook.

Sims made the comments in response to a question following a talk he gave on "Tackling market power in the COVID-19 era and beyond" at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

In April, the Federal Government told the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to develop a draft mandatory media code of conduct before the end of July to make digital companies pay for the use of news from local publications.

That process has not made the digital platforms Google and Facebook happy, with the former protesting on average every fortnight and the latter saying it would block Australians from posting local content on their news feeds if the code became law.

Despite the subject of Tuesday's talk, most of the questions posed to Sims were about the media laws, understandably so given that his audience was mostly made up of journalists.

Though a number of questioners tried to draw him out as to the content of his final proposal, Sims adroitly avoided giving anything away. He pointed out that the reason the initial creation was called a draft was because there was scope for change.

However he said there would be no change in the components of the code, with an arbitration system very much in place. Google has objected strongly to having arbitration of the sort proposed by the ACCC where one side's solution is accepted.

Sims said the government would always have the final say on the substance of the law, after it had been debated in Parliament.

Asked whether he would change his mind on not including the ABC and SBS as beneficiaries of whatever the digital platforms were made to pay, Sims said he had made the decision based on reasoning and it was up to the Parliament to change it if MPs so wished.

The Australian Labor Party and the Greens have made their support for the law conditional on it covering the two public broadcasters as well.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came 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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