As the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code – often just called Media Codes – continues to work its way through the Senate committee, major tech companies Google and Facebook continue to oppose it. As a solution, Google has put forward the Google News Showcase – a program run by the platform which would operate under the code, as well as some proposed amendments to the draft.
Google has said that the passing of the media code laws would set a “dangerous precedent,” and has called the draft code “unworkable” in its current form. The company even went as far as to say they would have no choice but to shut down the Australian branch of Google if the laws were to pass.
Google News Showcase is a program that was announced in 2020, and was originally meant to be rolled out first in Australia, Germany, and Brazil. Once the Australian Government moved ahead with debating the media codes, however, Google pulled the rollout in Australia. Germany and Brazil are currently the only countries where News Showcase is live.
According to an open letter penned by Google Australia’s Managing Director, Mel Silva (pictured), the News Showcase will have AU$1.3 billion invested into it over the next three years, and will be paying journalists for their “editorial expertise and beyond-the-paywall access to their journalism, rather than for links.”
Essentially, the program will pay participating news organisations to give users access to some – but not all – paywalled articles. The users will still need to subscribe directly to the news organisations to access everything, which Google says is “providing a way for the publisher to build a relationship with readers.”
The platform displays news to users using a sliding panel that users can scroll through to access articles, and has recently added a panel to highlight top articles from news sources that a user chooses. This panel, called the “For You Feed”, will give a user updates on local, national, and international news from any outlet that they manually follow.
Speaking at the Senate Committee hearing into the media code laws last week, Nine’s Managing Director of Publishing, Chris Janz, criticised the News Showcase model.
“Google claims to be open to paying for news by pointing to their Showcase product – a product that was recently announced but is yet to launch,” he said.
“[News] Showcase is exactly what you would expect from a monopoly. It works at a price set by Google based on an opaque global formula.
“The take-it-or-leave-it terms are set by Google. And it doesn’t address the bargaining power imbalance of Google’s core search product identified by the ACCC.”
While the debate between tech companies and news organisations continues in Australia, Google has reached an agreement to pay French news organisations for the use of their work. A translated version of the decision reads:
“Google unilaterally decided that it would no longer display article extracts, photographs, and videos within its various services, unless the publishers give it to them, free of charge.
In practice, the vast majority of press publishers have granted Google free licenses for the use and display of their protected content, without negotiation and without receiving any remuneration from Google.”