Australia’s competition and consumer watchdog says he is very happy with a media bargaining code poised to pass Parliament.
“This is a high-stakes game,” Rod Sims told Parliament’s economics committee on Wednesday.
“The media bargaining code has already gone a long way in meeting its objective.”
He said it was “absolutely fine” commercial deals were done before the code was passed.
“The whole point of the code is to promote journalism,” he said.
“This is a matter of the whole world watching, we’ll certainly be watching, and we want journalism to benefit from the code.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week discussed the code with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.
Mr Sims said unless deals were done by all eligible firms, including smaller ones, he expected Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to intervene using the code.
Mr Sims was quizzed about whether it was the code – or the threat of the code – that brought Facebook and Google to the negotiating table with media organisations.
The ACCC had been hoping that both sides would want to avoid arbitration and cut a deal.
He was surprised when Australian news was stripped from Facebook’s platform last week.
Critics including the media union say the media bargaining code will boost the profits of Australia’s two dominant media firms – Nine and News Corp – and will not support smaller players, new entrants to the market or public-interest journalism.
Mr Sims said it was important Australia had the independent news wire, the Australian Associated Press.
“That just adds enormously to media diversity. It’s really important that AAP continues,” he said.
The news wire, as a wholesale news provider, is not covered by the code.
The code is set to pass Parliament after Mr Frydenberg struck a deal with Facebook to recognise commercial deals with news outlets, rather than insisting on pay-per-click arrangements.
Labor, supporting the bill and the government amendments, says the code is an important step but is just one of a suite of measures recommended by the competition watchdog after the 2019 digital platforms inquiry.
“The government has a lot more to do to support public-interest journalism in Australia,” Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said.