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Australian government takes on Google and Facebook over re-publishing ‘news’

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A leading Australian consumer watchdog is calling for Google and other tech giants to pay Australian news outlets A$600 million (12.4 billion baht) a year under a new code of conduct ordered by the government. News Limited and Nine Entertainment have also voiced their support for the news ‘tax’.

The Australia government announced plans to force Google, Facebook, and other large internet firms to share advertising revenues earned from Australian news content featured by their search engines. The announcement came last month. The Australian government will unveil details of the mandatory payments to deal with the tech giants’ republishing of news in July.

Legislators argue that the payment should amount to 10% of the large tech companies’ advertising revenues in Australia, estimated by the government at some A$6 billion per year. The country’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, determined that 10% of the tech firms’ revenues are derived from advertising on news content.

The government says it is imposing the new mandatory code of conduct after months of negotiations, on a voluntary agreement, with Google, Facebook and other companies, failed to reach an agreement.

Both Google and Facebook have protested the move and are calling for continued negotiations. Both companies also insist they have invested millions of dollars in initiatives in helping Australia’s struggling news industry.

Consumers use both products, and others, to find daily news items and can ‘click through’ to read from the source. In Google’s case the offending listing is called the ‘Google snippet’ and includes a thumbnail and short description of the story. Many news websites rely on the majority of their traffic coming from both platforms.

In response to falling revenues, Australian news outlets have reportedly slashed 20% of jobs in the last 6 years. The crisis has only deepened in the economic and advertising downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has already forced the closure of many smaller news publishers.

An estimated 17 million Australians (out of a population of 24.5 million) use Facebook each month and spend an average of 30 minutes on the platform a day, while 98% of Australian mobile searches use Google.

SOURCE: AFP | ACCC

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Thailand

34.7% of Thai tourist businesses closed down

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34.7% of Thai tourist businesses closed down | The Thaiger

“When the tourists start coming back it will be a very different holiday experience for them. Will it ever get back to the numbers before Covid? Never.”

Tourism Authority of Thailand survey, conducted between January 10 – 12, indicates that more than a third of the country’s tourism-related businesses has already shut up shop and gone out of business. But industry players estimate the number is much higher. In regions almost solely relying on tourism for an income – Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Gulf and Andaman islands and touristy areas around Bangkok – up to 90% of the front-line tourism businesses have closed.

1,884 tourism businesses in Thailand were surveyed by the TAT about their current situations and how they were coping with the long-term closure of the Thai borders and the local restrictions on travel. Businesses covered areas like accommodation, travel agents, tour companies, restaurants, car and bike rentals and public transport businesses.

34.7% said they had already shut down or gone out of business.

That the TAT admit that more than a third of their front-line organisations have gone to the wall already is a big turn-around from the perennially optimistic tone and often cringe-worthy predictions. The TAT and the Thai Minister of Tourism and ports are now staring down the barrel of an industry, not only diminished, but changed forever after decades of stunning growth.

But speaking to several major tourism players during the week The Thaiger heard a much bleaker prediction from both foreign and Thai-owned tourism related businesses. One long-term hotel manager in the south, who is responsible for 11 hotels in Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak, says they’ve had to lay off almost all of their staff after “hanging in” over the past 9 months.

“We can no longer keep even a small number of rooms open without any hope of the borders opening up in the next few months. We’re finished. And even when they do start allowing tourists back into the country it would take us up to 6 months to get staff and maintenance ready again.”

“I would say that 90% of tourism-related businesses are gone. And gone forever. A lot were small family businesses who had taken the punt and invested their savings into the booming tourism business down here. They’ll never return.”

“When the tourists start coming back it will be a very different holiday experience for them. Will it ever get back to the numbers before Covid? Never. People will looking for something different as the world travel industry reinvents itself.”

Last week Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister claimed that 10 million tourists would start arriving in Thailand from the middle of this year for the rest of 2021. Just 3 months ago he also predicted that domestic tourists would undertake some 10 million trips a month during the forthcoming high season (December to February).

In 2019 nearly 40 million overseas tourists arrived in Thailand. In the second half of 2019 there were just over 20 million tourists, twice the amount the Minister predicts will arrive from July to December this year.

This week’s prediction was that tourists, foreign and local, would be spending 1.2 Trillion baht on the battered tourist industry during 2021. The Minister failed to provide details about where these tourists would come from or where they would visit during their stays – stays that still have to begin with a 14 day mandatory quarantine.

The break out of a cluster of infections in the Samut Sakhon province, just south west of Bangkok, and now spread to the majority of other Thai provinces, on December 20, forced the government to restrict inter provincial travel. The not-quite-a-lockdown that followed severely dampened the travel plans of locals and foreigners inside Thailand over the traditional December/January holiday season. This week the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority loosened some of the earlier restrictions and allowed some formerly closed businesses to re-open.

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Thailand

Government is to allow people to use “legal” parts of cannabis in business

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Government is to allow people to use “legal” parts of cannabis in business | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Thaiger

With intentions to promote cannabis as the country’s potential new cash crop, the government is preparing guideline to allow people to produce, sell or own cannabis and hemp. The permitted businesses, including textile, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics will be able to register to receive FDA permissions from January 29.

According to the FDA secretary-general, leaves, stalks, stems, roots, flowers, and seeds are not in a list of legal parts as they have high drug content (is there anything left?). Individuals are still not allowed to grow both cannabis and hemp without authorisation. Import and export of hemp must seek permission from the FDA Office as well.

Interested applicants in Bangkok can register at the FDA Office, while those in upcountry can contact the provincial public health offices. Courses and training about how to start a business using marijuana plants will be provided under the collaboration of the Education Ministry and Public Health Ministry.

However, a traditional medicine expert with Chaopraya Abhaiphubejhr Hospital, suggests that 6 groups of people should avoid food and drink with marijuana, including those with liver and kidney problems, heart disease patients, people aged below 25, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and those taking stimulant medications.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Myanmar cancels Thai investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone

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Myanmar cancels Thai investment in the Dawei Special Economic Zone | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Environment Justice Atlas

The Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee has announced the cancellation on the deep seaport project contract with Italian-Thai Development (ITD), one of Thailand’s leading industrial firms, by saying that they “lost confidence” in the company after long, controversial issues.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee said that the Thai company has caused them “repeated delays, continuing breaches of financial obligations under the contracts and the concessionaires’ failure to confirm their financial capacity to proceed with development”.

They say they will look for new development partners to continue the projects. Currently, there are still no comments from ITD.

The Dawei Special Economic Zone is Myanmar’s initiative to encourage international investments into the country, but the project has been delayed because of funding problems and local opposition.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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