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We Are Waiting on Zuck

As small and medium publishers announce they’re #WaitingOnZuck to pay for journalism and content that appears on the Facebook platform, numerous Aussie publications have joined in a 24-hour news freeze.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, for who the #WaitingOnZuck campaign is named for.

The Australian publishing landscape is #WaitingOnZuck.

Anthony Quintano/Creative Commons

If you happen to be wondering why it is that some of your favourite small and medium publishers are silent today, it’s because they are all #WaitingOnZuck.

Kicking off today, the #WaitingOnZuck campaign is spearheaded by Decade of Action and is in direct response to last year’s News Media Bargaining Code, which was signed into law in February of 2021.

The News Media Bargaining Code resulted in Facebook blocking news from local publishers as they continued to oppose the law, which would require designated tech platforms to strike commercial deals with Australian publishers that recognised the value of the content those publishers provided the platforms.

Though Facebook (Meta) has indeed agreed to some commercial deals, they have refused to negotiate with most of Australia’s independent and small publishers. As the #WaitingOnZuck campaign explains, “this risks the slow demise of meaningful independent media in Australia which gives our industry its diversity.”

Now, Aussie publishers have found a single voice and are using it to protect the future of independent journalism in Australia.

Launching today, the #WaitingOnZuck campaign is urging publishers to freeze all news for 24 hours as they wait for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to “to pay for the independent journalism that he and his businesses have benefitted from for years”.

The campaign has also shared an explanation for the movement which, since The Brag Media supports the campaign but is unable to freeze news for the day, we have copied in full below:

Almost one year ago the Australian Federal Government, Department of Treasury (courtesy of Josh Frydenberg) introduced the News Media Bargaining Code. This Code aims to reduce the obscene power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and digital platforms, specifically Meta and Google. 

It’s true that this world-leading Code has been a significant step in the right direction…it even caused a bit of a global ruckus, ruffling the feathers of many big tech leaders. The issue is that the digital platforms have made a bunch of commercial-in-confidence (AKA ‘secret deals’) that have exacerbated the massive competitive disadvantage, significantly impacting the ‘little guys’ of this vital industry – our small and medium news businesses. 

These are the independent publishers who not only deliver important news and information, but in many ways form part of the backbone of communities by celebrating diversity, shining a light on local heroes, nurturing our unique interests and sharing the stories that help us to feel seen, heard and represented in Australia.

Australians have taken this issue seriously. Showing their support for small and medium publishers in droves and enraged when Meta tried to yet again control the media landscape by disabling the sharing of any Australian news links. 

But the Australian public can only take this David and Goliath battle so far and the launch of the Code was only the tip of the iceberg for creating the change needed.

We know that Josh Frydenberg (Treasurer of Australia) is prepared to go the extra mile – heck he even reached out for a chat directly with Mr Zuck. Letting him know that we won’t be backing down, because the sustainability of independent news matters to Australians, all of us.

It has been a year since the Code was launched and Meta has had more than enough time to demonstrate that they believe in paying for the quality independent journalism that their business model continues to benefit from enormously. Instead they’ve made a series of convenient deals. Deals that benefit big-tech and big-media, putting the future of small and medium publishers at risk.

Introducing this Code was a great start, but the job is a long way from being done. Right now, small and medium publishers, along with their 4 million plus readers are #WaitingOnZuck to come to the table and make real deals. Agreements with small and medium publishers that are transparent, fair and actually pay for the journalism that his businesses are built upon.

Josh Frydenberg (and the Department of Treasury) is currently reviewing the impact of the Code. Which means that Josh has an opportunity to ensure that the Code holds Meta to account and helps to build a sustainable news industry that is independent, diverse and representative of all Australians. 

On March 22nd 2022 news media businesses across Australia will join forces through a collective news freeze – letting the world know that small and medium publishers are still #WaitingonZuck to pay up for the journalism that he has been benefiting from for free.

Over 30 media outlets have joined the fight today, including Broadsheet, Concrete Playground, Urban List, City Hub, Star Observer, Australian Jewish News, and more, replacing their news feed with a singular, unified message for Mark Zuckerberg.

However, it’s not solely a fight fought by publications, with the campaign urging anyone to get involved via a handful of measures.

Firstly, anyone is urged to download the #WaitingOnZuck creative assets to freeze their own personal feeds on March 22nd, while folks are also urged to send an email to Treasurer of Australia Josh Frydenberg to let him know that without greater accountability for Meta to negotiate with small and medium publishers that Zuck will continue to erode the Australian news media landscape and ultimately, democracy.

Lastly, everyone is also urged to send messages to Mark Zuckerberg in support of the campaign. Despite this, organisers know that he likely won’t reply. Or as they explain, “We know, because small and medium publishers have been trying to get a response all year.”

For full details surrounding the #WaitingOnZuck campaign, be sure to check out the official website and show your support.