Google backflips on threat to remove search engine from Australia

Google has backflipped on a threat to remove its search engine from Australian users, following Federal Government plans to enforce a new mandatory News Media Bargaining Code.

 

SEARCH engine giant Google has threatened to remove its popular search engine from Australian users, following the Federal Government’s plan to introduce a mandatory News Media Bargaining Code to force Google to negotiate with news media businesses for the right to publish news stories.

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The implementation of the new code is a world-first and major reform.

It is the intention of the Federal Government to ensure a sustainable and viable media landscape in Australia.

“For this to occur, Australian news media businesses need to be fairly compensated for generating original content and the rules of the digital world should mirror the rules of the physical world,” Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

Google threatened to shut down its Australian search engine, instead of being forced to pay news sites for news article links under the proposed News Media Bargaining Code.

On Friday 29 January, Google issued a widespread statement on its Google home page stating that it “was willing to pay to support journalism” through another avenue, its Google News Showcase which pays publishers for their content.

Mr Frydenberg said the rise of digital platforms, in particular Google and Facebook, has eaten into the advertising revenue base of traditional print, TV and radio media businesses.

“Since 2005, there has been a 75 per cent decline in dollars spent on print advertising, while at the same time spending on online advertising has increased almost eight-fold,” he said.

A 2017 review undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found Google and Facebook to be “unavoidable trading partners” for news media businesses, and found that they maintained a bargaining position that was significantly in their favour.

“This bargaining power imbalance has, to date, prevented news media businesses from being paid a fair price by the digital platforms for original content they generate,” Mr Frydenberg said.

The digital platforms instead use news stories to generate profits and advertising revenue.

The mandatory News Media Bargaining Code will require Facebook and Google to engage in ‘good faith’ negotiations with eligible news media businesses to enable the tech giants to provide links to Australian news stories.

Eligible news media businesses include those whose primary purpose is to produce public-interest journalism for Australian audiences and whose annual turnover is greater than $150,000 in the last year, or three of the last five years.

Under the bargaining code, these news media businesses will be able to negotiate payments for news content with digital platforms either individually or collectively.

Public submissions to the draft version of the News Media Bargaining Code were released by the ACCC on 22 December 2020.

 

By Emma DARBIN

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