Facebook signs pay deals with 3 Australian news publishers

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Facebook announced on Friday preliminary agreements with three Australian publishers, a day after the Parliament passed a law that would make the digital giants pay for news.

Facebook said letters of intent had been signed with independent news organizations Private Media, Schwartz Media and Solstice Media.

The commercial agreements are subject to the signing of full agreements within the next 60 days, a Facebook statement said.

“These agreements will bring a new slate of premium journalism, including some previously paywalled content, to Facebook,” the statement said.

Schwartz Media chief executive Rebecca Costello said the deal would help her company continue to produce independent journalism.

“It’s never been more important than it is now to have a plurality of voices in the Australian press,” Costello said in the Facebook statement.

Private Media chief executive Will Hayward said the new deal built on an existing Facebook partnership.

Australia’s Parliament on Thursday had passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a six-day-old ban on Australians accessing and sharing news. Access to Australian news sites did not appear to be fully restored until Friday.

Google, the only other digital giant targeted by the legislation, has already struck content licensing deals, or is close to deals, with some of Australia’s biggest news publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Seven West Media.

Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg on Wednesday took a veiled swipe at News Corp. in a social media post criticizing Australia’s law, which is aimed at setting a fair price for the Australian journalism that the digital platforms display.

“It is ironic that some of the biggest publishers that have long advocated for free markets and voluntary commercial undertakings now appear to be in favor of state sponsored price setting,” the former British deputy prime minister wrote.

News Corp. Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said last week that his company had pay negotiations with Facebook.

“Having been someone who’s dealt with Facebook over the past months, we have some weeks where we’re getting good engagement and think we’re progressing and then you get silence. I think the door is still open,” Miller told a Senate inquiry into Australian media diversity.

News Corp. owns most of Australia’s major newspapers, and some analysts argue the U.S.-based international media empire is the driver for the conservative Australian government making Facebook and Google pay. News Corp. has announced a wide-ranging deal with Google covering operations in the United States and Britain as well as Australia.