Australia Google news, Facebook, news

Australia introducing legislation asking Google, Facebook to pay for news

Story by Reuters and other agencies

Australia will next week introduce landmark legislation that will force Google and Facebook to negotiate a fair payment with news organisations for using their content in Facebook’s newsfeed and Google’s search.

The legislation, which Google says will be “unworkable”, will make Australia the first country to require Facebook and Google to pay for news content.

“The bill will now be considered by the parliament from the week commencing 15 February 2021,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in an emailed statement.

The legislation is being closely watched around the world.

Why was the law necessary?

The law has been designed to address the loss of advertising revenue from traditional media companies to the digital behemoths: for every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 to Facebook and $19 to everyone else. The loss of advertising revenue has been partially offset by subscriptions but it hasn’t been enough to stem the cuts to newsrooms, journalists leaving the industry and media outlets going broke and closing. Meanwhile Google and Facebook are doing very well: Google made $4.3bn in advertising revenue in Australia last year and Facebook made $0.7bn, according to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Newspapers say Google makes money from news and analysis provided by media organisations, and users would find Google and Facebook much less helpful if no news appeared on their feeds or in their search results.

With bipartisan support, it could come into law this month despite the misgivings of Google, which says the law will force it to withdraw its search function.

Software giant Microsoft Corp said it was confident its search product Bing could fill the gap in Australia if Google withdrew.

Lucinda Longcroft, director of government affairs and public Policy for Google in Australia and New Zealand, said the company had proposed amendments to a Senate enquiry but they were rejected.

Nevertheless, the company still hoped to discuss the law with members of parliament.

“We look forward to engaging with policymakers through the parliamentary process to address our concerns and achieve a code that works for everyone – publishers, digital platforms, and Australian businesses and users,” Longcroft said in an emailed statement.

Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment when contacted by Reuters.

The U.S. search and social media giants have pressed Australia to soften the legislation, with senior executives from both companies holding talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Frydenberg.

Google last week launched a platform in Australia offering news it has paid for, striking its own content deals with publishers in a drive to show the proposed legislation is unnecessary.

Last month, Reuters said it had signed a deal with Google to be the first global news provider to Google News Showcase. Reuters is owned by news and information provider Thomson Reuters Corp.

Google and a French publishers’ lobby group also agreed in January to a copyright framework for the tech firm to pay news publishers for content online, a first for Europe.

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