Google reportedly finalising deal to pay for Australian news

Google is reportedly "within reach of" coming to a compromise on a law that would compel it to pay for Australian news. This comes after the company said in June that it will pay publishers in Australia, Germany and Brazil for high-quality content as part of a licencing programme that will help participating publishers monetise their content through an enhanced storytelling experience.

The Australian government has reportedly drafted a code, the first in the world, to make Google and Facebook pay publishers for the value their stories bring for the platforms, Bloomberg reported. Google, however, said that the proposed law "does not reflect the value that the platforms provide" by redirecting readers to news websites, Bloomberg added.

The tech giant apparently wants the proposed law to be amended in three key areas - negotiations should take into account the value both sides bring, Google should not be required to share any data beyond what publishers are allowed to see, and requirements for platforms to share algorithm changes with publishers should be less inconvenient. According to the company, the move to have Australian authorities amend certain elements of the draft code in Google's favour looks set to succeed, Bloomberg added.

Meanwhile, Brad Bender, VP product management, news, Google previously said in a blog post about the licencing programme that when available, Google will also offer to pay for free access for users to read pay-walled articles on a publisher’s site. He explained that this will let pay-walled publishers grow their audiences and open an opportunity for people to read content they might not ordinarily see.

On the other hand, Will Easton, MD, Facebook Australia and New Zealand said on 31 August that if the draft code becomes law, it will "reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram".

"This is not our first choice - it is our last. But it is the only way to protect against an outcome that defies logic and will hurt, not help, the long-term vibrancy of Australia’s news and media sector," he added.

While it shares the Australian Government’s goal of supporting struggling news organisations, particularly local newspapers, and have engaged extensively with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that has led the effort, Easton said the ACC"s solution is "counterproductive to that goal".

"The proposed law is unprecedented in its reach and seeks to regulate every aspect of how tech companies do business with news publishers. Most perplexing, it would force Facebook to pay news organisations for content that the publishers voluntarily place on our platforms and at a price that ignores the financial value we bring publishers," he explained.

The move to have Google and Facebook pay publishers for news has been an ongoing one. In April this year, Australia's treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the code drawn up by ACCC will comprise the sharing of revenue generated from news, ranking and display of news content, and the sharing of data. Meanwhile, French magazine Marianne reported that same month that the French Competition Authority ordered Google to conduct "negotiations in good faith" with news agencies and publishers regarding the renumeration of using their content.

In Malaysia, the Malaysian Newspaper Publishers Association also wrote a letter to the Malaysia Competition Commission, pushing for Google and Facebook to share their revenue with local publishers. Chairman Mustapha Kamil Mohd Janor said: "While revenue from our digital publications are growing, it is still small by comparison. As such, an alternative and sustained income from our businesses has never been more important."

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