Australian publishers on the impossibility of negotiating with Google

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 22 January 2021

Premium news publishers in Australia today outlined the moveable, and impenetrable, feast that is negotiation with Google.

They told a Senate inquiry that Google and Facebook act like monopolies because they are monopolies.

And that without the federal government enacting a bargaining code, creating rules to force Google and Facebook to pay for news, the publishers believe they wouldn’t get a result to sustain the news industry in Australia.

“We think that there is absolutely a negotiable outcome and we are open-minded,” says Campbell Reid, a long time senior executive and editor at News Corp.

Today Google threatened to pull its search function from Australia if the news media bargaining code is passed by federal parliament.

“Particularly, as you heard from Google this morning, the core problem now is the fact that the code applies to (Google) Search,” says Reid.

“And one of the problems I think we might have all faced is there's always the next problem, particularly with Google.

“We can solve this problem but now there's another issue and you have to wonder: Are they intending to negotiate to a conclusion?

“The ball's in their court to tell us what specifically not needs to be changed.”

Reid says Google so-called experiment to stop putting local news results in Search showed how well controlled the machine is.

“One of the massive problems we've faced, particularly with Google, is their entire machine is a black box,” he says.

“How do you negotiate with them? They hold literally all of the information. They know more about our businesses than we know about them ourselves when it comes to being online.

“That's again evidence of the bargaining imbalance.

“The fundamental issue is the notion that this will break the internet or that Google or Facebook Facebook's business model, because it's existed for 20 years or so, is now sacrosanct.

“I think no other business enjoys that kind of set-in-stone operation." 

Dan Stinton, the mabnaging director of The Guardian Australia: "They've shown that they're not afraid to bully, intimidate and make changes to their service." 

Chris Janz, Nine managing director of publishing: “I see absolutely no reason why forcing Google and Facebook to pay for the benefits that they receive from publishers and our journalism would result in (Google) search or Facebook no longer working.

“That will be a decision for them if they were to change their businesses but that's no reason for them not to pay fair compensation to news publishers.”

Janz also criticised Google for hiding local news for some users last week in an experiment to test the impact news has on its platform.

“The impact of this decision was instant and disturbing,” Janz says.


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