Australia news media ‘large and small’ discuss Google deals

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) — Google is quickly negotiating generous deals with big and small Australian media companies to pay for news as lawmakers consider forcing digital giants into such agreements, Australia’s treasurer said yesterday.

Seven West Media on Monday became the largest Australian news media business to strike a deal with Google to pay for journalism. Its rival Nine Entertainment is reportedly close to announcing its own agreement.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed that state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation is also in negotiations and plans to spend any Google revenue on regional journalism.

“There are negotiations going on with all the major players and the minor players at the moment,” Frydenberg said. “This will help sustain public interest journalism in this country for years to come.”

Frydenberg said “none of these deals would be happening” if not for proposed legislation to create a so-called News Media Bargaining Code.

Lawmakers were debating amended legislation to create the code in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The code would create an arbitration panel to set a binding price for news in cases where Google and Facebook fail to reach deals with media companies whose original journalism they link to.

“Everything that I have heard from parties, both in the news media business and in terms of digital platforms, is that these are generous deals,” Frydenberg said.

“These are fair deals. These are good deals. These are good deals for the Australian media businesses,” he added.

Google and Facebook, which take a combined 81 per cent of online advertising in Australia, have condemned the code as unworkable. Google said it might make its search engine unavailable in Australia if the code is introduced. Facebook said it might block Australians from sharing news if the platform has to pay for news.