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Google fights Australia’s proposed news code

  • 20 August 2020
  On July 31, the draft news media bargaining code developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was released. The code grants news media businesses the power to individually or collectively bargain with Google and Facebook over revenue for news that is included on their platforms. As the ACCC explains, digital platforms have tended to lord over conventional news outlets, imposing ‘less favourable terms for the inclusion of news on digital platform services’. The responsibility to administer and police the code falls to the ACCC and would assess which media news businesses qualify to be included. 

News businesses, to qualify, need to ‘predominantly produce “core news”, and publish this online’.  Professional editorial standards and editorial ‘independence from the subjects of their news coverage’ are also elements, as is the need to ‘operate primarily in Australia for the purpose of serving Australian audiences’. Annual revenue must exceed A$150,000 for the most recent financial year or three out of five most recent financial years.

In an open letter published on August 17 to all Australians, Google’s Australasian managing director Mel Silva struck a menacing note. Be suspicious, she argued, of new regulations being proposed by the Australian government. The Code would ‘dramatically’ worsen Google Search and YouTube. Not content with that, she also argued that it ‘could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free service to use at risk in Australia.’  

Google likes playing the equality-for-all card in the news business. This, from a company that behaves, across the provision of its services, monopolistically and ruthlessly. Silva, for instance, suggests that Google is generous to conventional news sites as it is, paying them millions of dollars and sending ‘them billions of free clicks every year.’ The ACCC is painted as an entity favouring big news outlets who would ‘artificially inflate their ranking over everybody else, even when someone else provides a better result.’

The head of YouTube APAC, Gautam Anand, also claims that the Code would ‘create an uneven playing field when it comes to who makes money on YouTube.’  Only the ‘big news businesses’, as he terms them, would benefit, able to ‘demand large amounts of money over and above what they earn on the platform’. The humble creator, assisted by YouTube, would suffer. However, YouTube is not mentioned in the proposed new media bargaining code.

For smaller outlets, there is the the Publisher Curated News initiative, designed to,