The ABC has signed letters of intent with both Google and Facebook for payments under the news media bargaining code, the broadcaster’s managing director, David Anderson, has revealed.
“When these commercial deals are concluded, they will enable the ABC to make new and significant investments in regional services,” Anderson told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.
“These investments will provide a huge boost to the regions at a time when many areas of regional and rural Australia have experienced a withdrawal of media services.”
The ABC has indicated it will use any potential revenue to boost coverage of regional and rural Australia, telling local stories and celebrating unique Australian stories.
The national broadcaster is one of the last media organisations to sign up with the digital platforms. Wednesday’s announcement comes months after talks started between the ABC and Google.
In February, Seven West Media became the first large Australian media company to sign a multimillion-dollar agreement with Google. It was followed by Nine Entertainment, Guardian Australia, Junkee Media and others.
Nine, the publisher of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, reported the Nine deal with Google was worth “more than $30m” but the company has refused to confirm the figure.
The ABC has yet to nail down the details of the deals and would not comment on the amounts being offered, citing commercial-in-confidence, but they were expected to be worth many millions of dollars.
Anderson told the hearing he may reveal the amounts at the next Senate estimates once the deals were signed.
The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, has already indicated the ABC can keep all the revenue it makes under the historic news media laws.
Fletcher said the ABC had committed to spend the extra funds on regional journalism and the government would not reduce its funding as a result of the potential windfall.
“The government will not be offsetting the funding commitment that we make for any proceeds the ABC receives from the digital platforms,” the minister said in February.
Anderson has made it clear the revenue will not replace government funding and will be spent on separate projects.
“I have always been clear with the minister that the revenue would be spent on additional services,” the managing director said on Wednesday. “We don’t want to switch out public funding for commercial funding.”