Independent Senator Rex Patrick (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Senator Rex Patrick says he is trying to ensure that small and country news organisations get a say at this week’s Senate committee hearing into the news bargaining code. 

Crikey understands executives from Google, Facebook and news executives are due to face the hearing on Friday at the exclusion of other smaller and regional publishers.

But Patrick, who is a member of the committee, said he was confident those voices would be heard at a second hearing, and that the committee was yet to finalise the hearing schedule.

“Another hearing that will take place shortly after,” he told Crikey.

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The world-first legislation would impose a mandatory code of conduct on digital platforms that would force them to negotiate with Australian media companies on a payment for displaying news content on Google and Facebook.

The bill was tabled in Parliament in December and is currently before the Senate standing committee on economics.

The six-person committee is chaired by Liberal Senator Slade Brockman and deputy chair Labor Senator Alex Gallacher and includes Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, Nationals Senator Susan McDonald and Labor Senator Jenny McAllister.

Google responded to the bill by burying links from traditional media outlets this week in what it said was an “experiment” on 1% of its Australian users, attracting strong criticism.

Country Press Association chairman Bruce Ellen said he was hopeful his organisation would be able to have a say on the bill. 

He said the organisation’s main concern, as raised in its original submission to Treasury, was the last-minute inclusion of the ABC and SBS to the code.

“We don’t believe that ABC and SBS should be included in this code,” he said. “The code was predicated on the declining revenue that had been occurring in commercial businesses because of the dominance of Google and Facebook. That’s what drove the code. The ABC and SBS don’t have those [commercial] imperatives.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg added the public broadcasters to the code in November after they were initially excluded by Australia’s competition regulator because they were taxpayer funded.

Meanwhile the US has attacked Australia’s “extraordinary” plan to make the tech giants pay for news. 

In a submission to the inquiry on January 15, the US said the proposed legislation was “fundamentally imbalance” and requested Australia suspend any plans to finalise the bill.