Google argues it does enough to support news publishers

By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 18 September 2019
Mel Silva

Google has raised concerns about two of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) recommendations in the final Digital Platforms Inquiry report.

The tech company, in a blog post by Google Australia MD Melanie Silva, said while it’s “broadly supportive” of the watchdog’s 23 recommendations, one unfairly targets the Android operating system, which is Google-owned.

“The recommendation to directly intervene in the Android operating system does not take into account Australian market conditions and competition laws, and provides no justification for focusing on Android when Apple’s iOS is the most-used mobile operating system in Australia (as noted in the Final Report) and Microsoft’s Windows remains the most-used PC-based operating system,” Silva says in the post.

In its final report, the ACCC noted that Google Chrome is pre-installed on all Android devices. Google Search is the default option on Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari browsers. Given that Android is present in more than 40% of mobiles in Australia and Apple’s iOS in more than 55%, this means Google’s search engine is effectively the default search engine on more than 95% of Australian mobile devices, the watchdog said.

It recommended that Google provide Australian Android users the ability to choose their default search engine and internet browser from a number of options, something that’s already being rolled out in Europe following concerns around antitrust raised by the European Commission.

Silva also took issues with the recommendation to set up a “code of conduct”, which will likely be monitored by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). This code will ensure news media businesses are treated “fairly”, particularly around how they are financially compensated for content shared on the tech giants’ platform.

However, Silva argues that Google has provided news publishers with more than 2 billion clicks, and also supports them through the Google News Initiative. 

“The proposal for regulator-sanctioned negotiation of revenue sharing between platforms and news publishers… overlooks existing commercial arrangements between Google and Australian news publishers and the broader value that Google provides through referred web traffic and technology,” Silva says. 

The news media industry in Australia is largely supportive of establishing such a framework after years of arguing Google and Facebook have weakened their advertising-based business model. However, many would prefer that the ACCC, rather than ACMA, take control and regulate it.

The government is consulting with the industry on the 23 recommendations and due to respond by the end of the year.

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