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Australia watchdog tips tough rules to curb power of Google, Facebook

AFP  |  Sydney 

The of Australia's competition watchdog warned Monday that tough new regulation of tech giants like and was needed to protect the future of independent journalism.

Rod Sims, of the (ACCC), said the market power wielded by and has had a devastating impact on Australian media.

While the number of journalists employed by Australian newspapers fell 20 percent from 2014 to 2017 as dwindled, Sims said, and between them captured nearly 70 per cent of all spend.

"This shift in online, and to digital platforms, has reduced the ability of to fund and journalism," Sims said in remarks prepared for delivery to

"We cannot simply leave the production of and journalism to market forces," added Sims, whose agency has been carrying out a lengthy probe of the impact of digital platforms on the news industry in

While the platforms capture the vast majority of advertising revenue, they do not create any original news, Sims said.

"Rather they select, curate, evaluate, rank and arrange news stories produced by third parties," he said, noting that this market power increased the "risk of filter bubbles and unreliable news on digital platforms".

"Holding such critical positions in both the media and results in special responsibilities," he said.

The ACCC launched its inquiry into the power of digital platforms a year ago, and is accepting final submissions from industry players until the end of this week, before issuing its final report in June.

But Sims signalled on Monday that the final recommendations would include calls for broad new regulations on the digital behemoths and the they use in disseminating news and advertising.

"Virtually no applies to digital platforms and this contributes to regulatory disparity between that would appear to provide the digital platforms with an unfair advantage," he said.

A media regulator, he said, should have the power to compel platforms to reveal how news is ranked in search results, including whether advertiser-funded content is ranked higher than paid content, or if original news content is outranked by copycat stories and so-called clickbait.

The ACCC could also recommend that platforms provide a "quality" badge alongside content produced by recognised as a counter to disinformation.

Finally, Sims suggested a series of proposals to support local and independent journalism, including tax offsets for people who subscribe to which meet a set of quality standards.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 11 2019. 08:40 IST