EDITORIAL: Access to our independent coverage will change very soon

EDITORIAL: Access to our independent coverage will change very soon
Image: Meta announced earlier this year that they would not renew commercial deals with Australian news companies. Ink Drop, Shutterstock.

City Hub has been committed to independent reportage since 1995. But since Meta announced it would stop paying Australian publishers for news, access to our coverage is changing.

Now, we asking you to subscribe to our newsletter so you can stay part of our community, and stay updated on the important issues of today.

Why is this happening?

In 2021, Meta signed deals worth millions of dollars to pay some of Australia’s biggest publishers. This was in response to the News Media Bargaining Code, which was introduced to address the power imbalance between digital platforms and news publishers.

Essentially, the Code seeks to ensure that digital platforms remunerate news businesses when the platform generates more value from news content than the business creating the content obtains from its own distribution on the platform.

However, Meta announced earlier this year that they would not renew those commercial deals when they expire.

At the time, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese deplored the decision, saying “We know that it’s absolutely critical that media is able to function properly and be properly funded.”

“Journalism is important and the idea that research and work done by others can be taken free is simply untenable.”

Meta‘s statement that it will not renew its commercial deals with Australian publishers could lead to commercial sanctions under the News Media Bargaining Code. This will have a massive impact on how many news outlets reach their audiences, most of whom rely on social media platforms to get the latest updates.

What effect will this have on media outlets?

While television remains the most popular news source in 2024, its dominance is being challenged by social media.

According to this year’s Digital News Report: Australia, by the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC), half of Australians are using social media as a source of news.

60 per cent of Gen Z relies on social media as their main source, a 17 percentage point increase since last year.

Instagram is now the top social media platform for news for this generation at 32 per cent.

But beyond engagement metrics, the changes are already having very real impacts on some of our biggest media outlets.

Just last week, Channel Nine announced mass staff cuts, citing the weak advertising market as the reason, as well as the impending end of the commercial deal with Meta, which saw the media giant lose about $15 million in annual Meta revenue.

In response to the job cuts and evidence from Meta executives at the Parliamentary hearing into social media, the Greens criticised Meta for refusing to pay for news and journalism content.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young is Deputy Chair of the Joint Select Committee into Social Media and Australian Society, Greens spokesperson for Communications, said, “Meta is trying to blackmail the Parliament by refusing to rule out banning all news on their platforms Instagram and Facebook, should they be Designated under the News Media Bargaining Code.

She said it was clear that stronger laws were needed to protect Australians from “the predatory business models of Meta and other social media platforms.”

“I’m concerned these giant tech corporations are ripping off news content, costing Australian jobs and damaging our democracy,” she continued.

“We need to tackle the toxic business models and secret algorithms of these social media giants with algorithm transparency reforms.”

She added that this “blackmailing” of the Australian Parliament has already happened in Canada, who told Australia to brace for impact earlier this year.

The way we receive information

It is also worth mentioning that this is only part of the assault – artificial intelligence (AI) will also have an impact on the ways we receive information. ‘Deepfakes’ (images or recordings that have been convincingly manipulated to misrepresent someone saying or do something that wasn’t said or done) are part of the growing concern of false information.

Furthermore, now it is possible to ask AI a question and get a response, rather reading authoritative, fact-checked sources that present nuanced and well-considered information.

We need direct contact with our readers and reject the hall of mirrors that comes from letting algorithms decide the information that is fed to us.

Why subscribe to City Hub?

City Hub has dedicated itself to covering local voices and reporting on issues that affect the inner-city community for almost 30 years.

But beyond local coverage, we also explore the key issues of today in New South Wales, including free speech, housing, gender equality, Indigenous rights, and the right to protest.

We are witnesses to the causes that matter to our audience.

City Hub reported on the fight to save Explorer Street public housing and tenants protesting the demolition of public housing in Glebe.

We have been on the frontlines of reporting on protests against the genocide in Gaza. We were on the scene when the stabbing at Wakeley Church in Sydney’s west occurred.

When Cumberland City Council banned a same-sex parenting book, City Hub was on the scene, reporting on clashes between protestors.

By subscribing to our local publication, you will receive weekly updates of our fiercely independent coverage straight to your inbox for free.

Stay informed, stay involved, and subscribe to stay connected to our community.

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