The proposed bargaining code between Australian news publishers and big tech platforms represents a critical turning point in worldwide efforts to create a sustainable, forward-looking model for professional journalism.
While it is often hard to perceive the tides of history while we are in them, many of us believe that Australia is about to make a choice that could change the course of civic societies around the globe. That choice is not only about the future of news publishing, but also whether we can build communities based on facts instead of misinformation and hate.
There are historic precedents for this kind of moment. In the 19th century, music was primarily a print business (sheet music). It was “disrupted” by recording devices. Embracing that future, governments authorized music licensing regimes — backed by the force of law — to return value back to publishers and artists. Those systems have supported music for more than 100 years, such that Google and Facebook (among many others) now pay to license music content. Similarly, in the 1990s broadcasters in many parts of the world won the right to compensation from cable companies, and those systems of retransmission fees still support much of local TV.
News publishers create a type of content that is critical to communities but also expensive to produce. (Information may want to be free, but professional reporters need to be paid.)