SA media to do battle with Google and Facebook over payment for using content

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SA media companies including Media24, Sunday Times publisher Arena, Caxton, Independent Media and Mail & Guardian are taking on Google and Meta - formerly Facebook - arguing that the local industry needs to be compensated by the tech conglomerates for using their content.

Industry association Publisher Support Services (PSS) is making a submission in this regard to the Competition Commission’s ongoing inquiry into online platforms operating in South Africa, calling it an "opening gambit" in getting Google and Meta to pay them for their content.

This inquiry is currently probing competition in ecommerce, app stores, online classified marketplaces, accommodation, travel, transport and food delivery services, among others.

"Globally, platforms like Google and Meta have been using publishers' content at no cost to grow their market dominance," CEO of Mail & Guardian Media and chairperson of the PSS Hoosain Karjieker said in a statement.

"Our objective is to get them to compensate us fairly and equitably for our journalistic efforts, hence we are making submissions on their behaviour in the local market to the Competition Commission’s market inquiry into online platforms in South Africa."

In February, Australia passed a world-first law aimed at making Google and Facebook pay for news content on their platforms. In response Google threatened to pull its services from the country.

Earlier in the year, Google reached a deal to compensate French publications to use their news content on its platform. In July, it was subsequently fined almost R9 billion at the time by that country’s competition authority for failing to thrash out a deal in time.

Karjieker said that while the submission was being led by the PSS, other media companies should join in.

"Other publishers and media owners are welcome to join the efforts of PSS or independently make submissions to the inquiry."The PSS’ submissions will be filed in January next year, and the hearings are expected to be held the next month. The Competition Commission is expected to release its findings in October. 

- Fin24 is in the Naspers-owned Media24 stable. 

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