Meta-executive claims Australian media used laws to pay debt and reward shareholders

One of Meta’s top European executives criticized Australian news outlets for saying they were using money they received under trading laws to pay down debt and reward shareholders, while a senior executive of Google claimed that his company did not understand how the code worked.

Australia’s Treasury is preparing to hold a series of roundtables to assess the effectiveness of its framework, which was introduced last February to force Google and Meta to negotiate with media outlets over the use of their content. The tech giant’s executives shared starkly different views on the company’s experience with creating the laws.

A Meta executive criticized how the media handled the money while a Google executive said no one understood how media trading laws work.Credit:Getty

John Severinson, head of partner development at Meta, said the laws do not encourage collaboration between media and technology companies.

“The government should encourage the development of new business models. One of the lessons from Australia is that it is not solving – or trying to solve – the underlying problem in that the online journalism business model is broken and needs to move on to a new reality,” Severinson said.

“We can see the deals we’ve made with publishers in Australia from all the events there, some of those publishers have instead used that money to pay off debt or give it to shareholders. That’s not an incentive for collaboration, and we think smart regulation should do that.

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Severinson did not specify which Australian media companies he was referring to. Several media companies have rewarded their shareholders and/or paid off their debts since receiving payments from the American groups as part of the agreement, but the specific uses of the money received from Google and Meta have not not publicly disclosed, and therefore this banner has not been able to verify Severinson’s claims.

Meanwhile, Tom Morrison-Bell, head of government affairs and public policy at Google, said the Australian government recognizes that Google’s licensing agreements for its News Showcase product are the best way forward, as opposed to the how agreements could be entered into under the code.

“No one has been named under the code yet, this code has not come into effect. No one knows how this law works,” Morrison-Bell said. “We have worked constructively with the government to come up with a way forward.”

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