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Australia to force social media firms to pay for news stories

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Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP/PA

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP/PA

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Photo: Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP/PA

Facebook and Google will be forced to pay Australian media sites to feature their news or face fines totalling hundreds of millions of dollars under new laws set to come into force this year.

Australia has unveiled its plan to introduce a new royalty-style system, requiring the tech giants to share the ­revenue they generate from advertising alongside news content.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was "about a fair go for Australian news media businesses".

"It's about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape," he added. "Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake."

Since the start of the year, many news sites have been forced to shed jobs as advertising spend has plummeted.

The draft code is open to consultation until the end of August, and is expected to be brought into law this year. It will initially just apply to Google and Facebook although could be broadened out to other digital firms.

The move to push forward with the code comes after talks over a voluntary deal between the tech giants and media firms ground to a halt.

Under the plans, ­companies will be required to negotiate with media outlets in good faith over using their news content, and will have three months to come to a deal.

If the tech firms are found to breach the code, they could face fines of up to A$10m (€6m) per breach or 10pc of annual local turnover, depending on which is larger.

Rod Sims, chair of Australia's competition watchdog, said this could mean penalties of "up to hundreds of millions" for Facebook and Google.

Irish Independent