Facebook to undo Australian news ban

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Facebook to undo Australian news ban

After last minute media code changes.

Facebook is set to restore Australian news on its social media platform after the government agreed to last-minute amendments to its proposed news media bargaining code.

The amendments, which will be introduced today, will see the government take into account existing commercial deals with media companies when designating tech companies under the code.

It will effectively mean tech giants such Google and Facebook can escape inclusion, as long as they have “made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry”.

The change comes after a series of deals were struck between Google and media companies last week, including Nine, News Corp, Guardian Australia and Seven West Media.

If a commercial agreement has been reached, “non-differentiation provisions” – which requires the same treatment across media companies – will not be triggered under the code “because [the] agreements resulted in different remuneration amounts”.

Planned amendments to the media code will also see the government give companies one month's notice of their “intention to designate prior to any final decision” under planned amendments to the code.

Other proposed amendments include requiring two months of mediation prior to final offer arbitration, which will now be considered a “last resort where commercial deals cannot be reached”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the amendments would “provide further clarity to digital platforms and news media business about how the code is intended to operate and strengthen the framework”.

He also confirmed that Facebook had advised the government that it would “restore Australian news pages in the coming days”, though did not elaborate one when this might occur.

In a separate statement, Facebook A/NZ managing director William Easton said the company had reached an agreement with government following "constructive discussions with [Frydenberg] and [Communications minister Paul] Fletcher".

"We have consistently supported a framework that would encourage innovation and collaboration between online platforms and publishers," he said less than a week after Facebook blocked Australian news.

"After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our platform provides to publishers relative to the value we receive from them.

"As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days."

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