But the watchdog, which made 23 recommendations in its 623-page final report that it said would address these and other issues through " significant, holistic reform", did not offer any radical steps to correct the imbalance.
The ACCC's recommendations cover competition law, consumer protection, media regulation and privacy law.
“Importantly, our recommendations are dynamic in that they will provide the framework and the information that governments and communities will need to address further issues as they arise. Our goal is to assist the community in staying up to date with these issues and future-proofing our enforcement, regulatory and legal frameworks.”
Sims said during the inquiry the ACCC had identified the following adverse effects wrought by Google and Facebook:
- "The market power of Google and Facebook has distorted the ability of businesses to compete on their merits in advertising, media and a range of other markets;
- "The digital advertising markets are opaque with highly uncertain money flows, particularly for automated and programmatic advertising;
- "Consumers are not adequately informed about how their data is collected and used and have little control over the huge range of data collected;
- "News content creators are reliant on the dominant digital platforms, yet face difficulties in monetising their content; and
- "Australian society, like others around the world, has been impacted by disinformation and a rising mistrust of news."
Among the ACCC's recommendations are:
- "Requiring designated digital platforms to each provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority with codes to address the imbalance in the bargaining relationship between these platforms and news media businesses and recognise the need for value sharing and monetisation of content;
- "Addressing the regulatory imbalance that exists between news media businesses and digital platforms, by harmonising the media regulatory framework;
- "Targeted grants to support local journalism of about AU$50 million a year;
- "Introducing measures to encourage philanthropic funding of public interest journalism in Australia;
- "ACMA monitoring the digital platforms’ efforts to identify reliable and trustworthy news;
- "Requiring the digital platforms to draft and implement an industry code for handling complaints about deliberately misleading and harmful news stories; and
- "Introducing a mandatory take-down ACMA code to assist copyright enforcement on digital platforms."
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman said in a statement it welcomed the report and the recommendation that it take on the role of the digital platforms ombudsman.
TIO board chair Professor Michael Lavarch said, “Digital platforms play a significant role in our daily lives to run our businesses, communicate with family and friends, and remaining connected to our communities. The proposal for a digital platforms ombudsman is a timely alignment with current government actions to safeguard consumers and businesses, and their transactions in the digital space.
“The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman will work closely with government, regulators and other stakeholders to implement the recommendations in a way that builds on the strengths of the TIO scheme. We look forward to further engagement in the consultation process.”
Ombudsman Judi Jones said: “It is pleasing to see the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman recognised for its work in resolving consumer complaints. I look forward to ongoing talks with the relevant regulatory bodies to determine the best outcome for consumers, businesses, and the digital industry."