New Zealand to press ahead with media content pay law

Samoan Prime Minister visits New Zealand

SYDNEY (Reuters) -New Zealand's conservative coalition government will proceed with a bill that would make it compulsory for digital technology platforms to pay media companies for news, it said on Tuesday.

The bill is being introduced as New Zealand media companies struggle against technology firms for advertising dollars, leading them to find new ways to provide news programming.

The Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, introduced last year by the previous Labour government, will be presented in Parliament with amendments to support "our local media companies to earn revenue for the news they produce", Communications Minister Paul Goldsmith said.

The proposed changes would align it more closely with Australia's digital bargaining law, Goldsmith said.

That law, which took effect in Australia in March 2021, gives the government power to force internet firms such as Facebook owner Meta Platforms and Alphabet Inc's Google to negotiate content supply deals with media outlets, if the parties fail to reach an agreement on payments.

Meta said the New Zealand bill ignored the realities of how its platforms work, their voluntary nature, the preferences of users and the free value it provided news outlets.

"We will continue to be open and transparent with the government and publishers on our business decisions as this bill progresses," a Meta spokesperson said in an email.

Google did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

After Canada introduced a similar law in 2023, Meta blocked news content from appearing on Facebook there. Meta has also said it plans to stop paying Australian media companies for news and the government is still considering whether to intervene.

Goldsmith said the proposed changes would give power to the communications minister to decide which digital platforms would come under the law. An independent regulator will be appointed as the bill's authority, he said.

One of the governing coalition's partners, the right-wing ACT New Zealand party, will not support the bill, Goldsmith said, which means it must have the support of other parties to pass.

The opposition Labour party said it would check the amendments but supported the intent of the bill.

"I am relieved the government is seeing sense and progressing with legislation to make the media landscape fairer for news companies operating online," Willie Jackson, Labour spokesperson for media and broadcasting, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Stephen Coates)