Why does the Australian government want Google to pay Australian media companies for news appearing on Google?

Team Udayavani, Oct 20, 2020, 12:51 PM IST

Facebook and Google plan to remove news all together from their Australian platforms, instead of paying news companies for their stories.

It comes amidst the introduction of a new code by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which requires tech corporations to pay publishers for the news they use.

As reported by BBC, Since January 2019, poor advertising revenues have forced over 200 news organisations in Australia to close temporarily or permanently shut down, according to the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project, and the Covid-induced slowdown has compounded the industry’s problems

The report further states that Following an inquiry last year, which found that platforms such as Google and Facebook were bagging “too large a share” of the online advertising profits from media organizations in Australia, the government proposed the draft News Media Bargaining Code law in July this year.

The code urges tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for Australian news content that appears on their news feed and searches.

According to The Guardian, News companies and the platforms have three months to negotiate, and if an agreement cannot be reached in that time, then they go to arbitration, where selected arbitrators or a panel appointed by the government will make a final decision on payments

The code would require Google and Facebook to give news media companies at least 28 days notice of algorithm changes affecting news ranking, the display of news content and advertising with news content.

The draft code covers other matters too, including notifying news companies of changes to algorithms.

Last month, Google attacked the new law and in an open letter, the firm warned that its YouTube and Search features could be “dramatically worse” if new rules were brought in. It also added that users’ data could be shared.

It also tapped Australian comedian Greta Lee Jackson to help fight the proposed news media bargaining code.

In the video, Jackson says forcing the digital platforms, which drive traffic to news sites, to pay for news stories is similar to asking a bus driver who drops off passengers at a restaurant to also pay the restaurant owner. Here the bus driver is referred to as Google and Facebook and restaurants are News sites.

Well, it sounds unfair in the analogy that they gave that now the restaurants (News media) are asking the bus driver(Google and Facebook ) to give them some money when they deliver the customers.

So, what is the problem and why they are asking google to pay?

For instance, If we search for ‘Covid Newyork’ we get all the data and case numbers etc without leaving the Google search page so no one is getting paid except for Google for the ads that are in this page.

But, google did not research these numbers as google does not create content it is just a search engine. If we see in the bottom of the graph, the source mentioned is ‘New York times’. But, unless, users click the source and go to their page, New York times does not get paid. In conclusion, google is getting paid for someone else’s content

Another example, If we search for ‘how to change the laptop battery’ we get all the information in the search engine. This is not google’s information, this was done by a particular website and they paid someone to write an article on this subject. But they do not get paid unless we click on their website.

This is called as the ‘featured snippet’ and one can disable this feature but if one does that their website will be put further down the search results.

So, now in this scenario if we talk about google’s advertisement of Google being the bus driver and news medias being the restaurant, it is like the bus driver going inside the restaurant getting free samples of all the food, bringing back on the bus, letting everyone eat, moving on to the next restaurant and doing the same thing. A few customers may like the ‘food’ and would actually go to the restaurant and have some more but others are just going to be happy with the samples. The same thing is happening with videos, photos and even weather forecast.

Google is making billions from the search ads by pulling content from different websites. This is why The Australian government wants Google to pay Australian media companies for news appearing on Google

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