Government launches inquiry into media and advertising services competition

Pic Reuters

Global internet platforms Google and Facebook will be coerced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to reveal all their commercial secrets.

"We will also consider the impact of information asymmetry between digital platform providers and advertisers and consumers".

The probe was ordered as part of wider media reforms amid growing fears for the future of journalism and the quality of news and the rise of so-called "fake news", according to Reuters.

Facebook and Google face a year-long investigation to be carried out by the competition watchdog, amid predictions the internet giants could soon account for almost 85 per cent of the world's digital advertising spending.

Facebook and Google have come under fire in other countries for their outsize influence in the media landscape, with critics questioning the tech companies' efforts to police the content shared on their platforms.

"This inquiry will be important as it will expose the tactics search engines and social media platforms have employed to hoard advertising dollars, the conditions they have forced media organisations to accept and the part they have played in the gradual erosion of the media's bottom line", Senator Griff said.

Details on the terms of reference for the inquiry are available here.

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The Commission will have the authority to demand info and hold hearings if the existing information isn't enough to gauge the level of competition.

"We look forward to engaging with this process as relevant", A Google spokesperson said.

Media reform discussions in parliament earlier this year resulted in the easing of ownership regulations to allow the country's traditional media companies to increase their market share to better compete with digital platforms.

A preliminary report will be delivered in December 2018, with a full report expected in June of 2019.

Significantly, Mr Sims has not been tasked with investigating exactly what local tax is paid by Google and Facebook on all revenues derived from Australian advertisers and consumers.

The consumer watchdog said it will be calling for public submissions soon.

"Catalogues are rated highly by consumers for information about selecting children's wear, purchasing toys, selecting clothing & fashion, purchasing cosmetics & toiletries, purchasing small electrical appliances and purchasing large kitchen/laundry appliances - whilst many consumers turn to magazines for information on Home improvements and renovations, Home interiors and furnishings and Health and fitness products and consumers turn to newspapers for information on new and used motor vehicles, real estate, employment and jobs and entertainment services".

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