By Colin Packham CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australian lawmakers are expected to pass amendments to landmark legislation to force Alphabet’s (NASDAQ 🙂 Google and Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 to pay media companies for news content, despite of the opposition of some minor political parties. The government introduced amendments to the so-called Media Negotiation Code after Facebook last week escalated a dispute over new laws by preventing Australian users from sharing and viewing news content on its popular social media platform. The Australian Senate began debating the amendments on Wednesday. The ruling Conservative Liberal Party does not have a majority in the upper house, but the support of the opposition Labor Party is expected to be sufficient to pass the bill. Facebook said Tuesday that it would restore Australian users’ access to news in light of the compromise it had reached with the government. In a major change, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg will have the discretion to decide that Facebook or Google need not be bound by the code, if they make a “significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry.” The original legislation required tech giants to submit to forced arbitration if they couldn’t reach a business deal with Australian news companies over their content, effectively allowing the government to set a price. Some politicians worry that the change will allow Frydenberg to exempt Facebook or Google from the new laws even if they do not reach agreements with all media companies. “This changes the bill significantly,” independent senator Rex Patrick, who plans to vote against the amended bill, told Reuters. “The big players could successfully negotiate with Facebook or Google. The minister does not appoint them and all the small ones are lost.” Frydenberg has said it will give Facebook and Google time to reach deals with Australian media companies before deciding whether to apply their new powers.
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