One of Australia’s largest media groups urged the country’s MPs to ignore Google’s threats to shut down the search engine and urged them to enact a code to force Big Tech to pay for news.
Nine Entertainment, owner of the 190-year-old Sydney Morning Herald, also turned down Google’s efforts to convince lawmakers to water down proposed media negotiation rules after a spate of trade deals with small Australian publishers.
“You have to understand that: The Australian government does not take its orders from Google,” said Peter Costello, chairman of Nine, the Financial Times in an interview. “It will decide what is in the interests of the Australians. No Google approval is required for the legislation. “
Nine is an A $ 5 billion (US $ 3.9 billion) group with broadcast, newspaper and internet assets.
The EU, UK and Canada view the Australian Code as a model for similar regulation to support news publishers in their own jurisdictions.
Australian MPs will begin debating laws to pass the code on Monday. It would create binding arbitration that could make decisions about the fees Facebook and Google messaging providers must pay for content streamed on their platforms if trade negotiations fail.
Media groups claim they suffer from a “fundamental imbalance” in bargaining power when negotiating with Big Tech about payments for content displayed on their platforms.
Google and Facebook are aggressively advocating MPs to change the code. They claim this is not practical and could force them to withdraw their services from Australia. Google signed contracts with several smaller publishers this month to publish their content on its new News Showcase service in an attempt to convince MPs that the most controversial elements of the Code should be watered down.
Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, told local radio on Monday that he spoke to both Facebook and Google over the weekend and that media organizations are “very close” to reaching agreements with the couple.
Even if the code goes into effect, tech groups are hoping to convince Canberra not to make their main platforms, Google Search and Facebook News Feed, dependent on it as long as they deal with publishers.
Under the bill, the treasurer has the power to determine which services are subject to the code and could designate News Showcase instead of Google search.
Nine and Rupert Murdochs News Corp, the two largest Australian publishers, are negotiating with Google over the use of their content but have been unable to agree terms. Nine have stated the two digital groups owe up to A $ 600 million, while News Corp has proposed owing up to A $ 1 billion.
Costello, a former vice chairman of Australia’s ruling Liberal Party, said the code was necessary because Google’s monopoly on search engines gave it undue bargaining power. He rejected the idea that the News Showcase platform was weakening the media code requirements.
“Our point is pretty simple – if Google uses our material, they should pay for it,” said Costello.
Google claims the code undermines a fundamental principle of the internet by forcing it to pay to provide links to news websites.
An Australian parliamentary committee on Friday backed the proposed measures, saying it was confident it would lay the foundation for a fairer relationship between the media and the two Silicon Valley groups.
Google has proposed changes that would supposedly create a “fair” arbitration process and ensure that the strictest aspects of the code only apply to content broadcast to News Showcase, and not to the broader search services.
“As we said, we’ve been committed to making code work since the draft was released last July. The concerns that we and others have consistently raised concern certain aspects of the Code, ”said Lucinda Longcroft, director of government affairs for Google Australia and New Zealand.
“We look forward to working with policy makers as part of the parliamentary process.”
Facebook said in a statement Monday that the law was impractical and called on MPs to change it.