Facebook News Kicks Off in Australia

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
August 4, 2021 Updated: August 4, 2021

Facebook has announced a phased rollout of Facebook News to a small group of Australian users, as well as a $15 million (US$11.1 million) news fund.

Facebook News will provide personalised news content for users in a separate tab on its app.

It comes after Australia implemented a media bargaining code, which Facebook strongly opposed. In February, the social media giant banned all Australian news content on its platform in retaliation to the legislation.

After heavy backlash, Facebook eventually reversed the decision, particularly for shutting down essential emergency news services from government agencies.

Epoch Times Photo
In this photo, a message is seen on Facebook mobile on February 18, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Since then, the platform has negotiated and finalised deals with every major Australian publisher, agreeing to pay them millions for their news content.

These agreements include those made with News Corp in March, Seven West Media in May, and Nine and The Guardian in June. There have also been agreements made with some smaller publishers.

“Facebook will continue to support the news industry through products and programs to promote premium journalism and drive referral traffic and revenue for publishers,” Facebook Australia’s Head of News Partnerships Andrew Hunter said in an announcement. “We’re planning to expand Facebook News to more Australians through the coming months.”

The media bargaining code means platforms, such as Google and Facebook, are required to negotiate and come to agreements with the media to publish their content.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was to ensure that news media businesses are “fairly remunerated” for the content they generate and provides a framework for good faith negotiations.

“[The code] addresses the bargaining power imbalance between news media businesses and digital platforms,” he said in February.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the deals between Australian news businesses and Facebook would not have been achievable without the media bargaining code.

“There’s no debate about that,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims told The Australian Financial Review. “We are in a great spot. It’s better that you get deals done where you’ve got an equal bargaining framework versus having to be done by an arbitrator.”

Epoch Times Photo
The logos of mobile apps Facebook and Google on a smartphone in Sydney, Australia, on Dec. 9, 2020. (The Epoch Times)

The social media platform has also created two news funds worth $15 million to invest in public-interest journalism over the next three years.

The Newsroom Sustainability Fund will allocate $2.5 million per year for innovation and revenue-generating projects, just as subscription paywalls and membership program development.

The Public Interest Journalism Fund will allocate the same amount to small, regional, and independent publishers and journalists to create projects of public interest.

“We are particularly focused on how the fund could provide support for underserved communities—such as Indigenous Australians, LGBTQI+ community, youth and women’s issues, rural affairs, and local civic journalism,” Hunter said.

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu