The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong has urged the government to consider overseas examples in supporting the media after Australia passed a law requiring social media platforms and search engines to pay news outlets for content.
Society chairman Keith Kam Woon-ting said following Australia's move to use legislation to protect local media's right to survive is one option. And supporting and encouraging the development of local media is another option that may yield results more quickly, he added.
Kam said social media's citizen journalism could not replace professional journalism, suggesting that the government could use legislation to protect local media's rights.
"The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong hopes that the government will take timely actions to monitor and understand the relevant legislative arrangements overseas so that it will not lag too far behind," Kam said in a statement.
On February 25, Australia passed the news media and digital platforms mandatory bargaining code, becoming the first country where government arbitrators can set the price that digital platforms need to pay local media outlets if private negotiations fail. The new law requires tech giants like Facebook and Google to pay local news media and publishers for linking their content in news feeds or search results.
Australian news outlets including News Corp Australia, Channel 10, Prime Media Group and Seven West Media said there was an imbalance of bargaining power between them and digital platforms.
They said digital platforms could generate a substantial amount of revenue via news content yet they need not pay the media back.
"The code will ensure news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism," Australia's treasurer Josh Frydenberg and communications minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on February 25.
Britain, France and Canada are looking to follow in Australia's footsteps.
Kam said if the government could not protect the local media via legislation, an alternative must be considered to support and encourage the development of local media.
"What is important is that the government is aware of the scale of the problem and willing to take the first step to address it."
He proposed a two-pronged strategy of "self-help and external support" as there is a pressing need to support domestic media amid the pandemic.
He said the society had been in collaboration with the SAR government and created a new platform called NewsocHub.
The platform aims at providing technical support to media companies by helping them attract advertisers to online newspapers.
Keeping the news industry afloat: Page 19