Google and Facebook are racing to strike deals with Australian publishers, offering them the world’s most generous licensing terms in a bid to persuade Canberra not to enforce rules forcing tech groups to pay for news.
MPs began debating legislation on Wednesday to enact the News Media Negotiating Code, which the EU, UK and Canada see as a similar model of regulation to support publishers in their own jurisdictions.
While Google has struck multimillion-dollar licensing deals with publishers in nearly a dozen countries, those involved in the negotiations told the Financial Times that the sums currently under discussion in Australia are “multiple times over”. the size of these agreements.
Developments in Australia are being watched closely in Europe and the United States to prove that the stricter approach will restore the balance between publishers and technology platforms. Among the features of the code is an arbitration system that would make binding decisions on what fees Facebook and Google should pay information providers if trade negotiations fail.
Google on Wednesday signed a letter of intent with Nine Entertainment, one of Australia’s largest media groups, outlining a proposed agreement to use content from its newspaper, television and internet assets, according to a report. person with direct knowledge of the agreement.
The tech group said Wednesday it has also struck a deal with Junkee Media to curate the small publisher’s content online on its recently launched News Showcase service.
These followed a similar deal with Seven West Media, a group with TV, newspaper and digital assets, signed on Monday which Australian media say is worth A$10-30 million ($7.7-23 million). dollars) per year. By comparison, Google’s recent framework agreement in France with more than 100 publishers is worth about 22 million euros ($26.5 million) a year in total, according to people familiar with the deal.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Google are also in talks over a possible global content deal, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
Experts said the tie-ups reflected Google’s desire to ensure Canberra didn’t apply the toughest bits of code to its core search function, which the US group has warned it could be forced to shut down in Australia.
“Google is desperate not to pay for information delivered through its search engine. It appears they are paying beyond market value to get deals that specifically exclude Google search,” said James Meese, master of lectures in communication at RMIT University in Melbourne.
Canberra and Google could reach a sort of ‘tacit agreement’, he added, that the government would not apply the code to the tech giant’s search function if it signed enough agreements with publishers.
Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, said none of the trade deals would have been done without the code, which had ushered in a “historic moment” for media companies. The legislation would be enacted by parliament, but the government would decide whether it was enforced against Google’s search service or Facebook, he said.
“In terms of naming Google Search or Facebook, those are decisions I would make after receiving advice” from the Australian competition regulator, he told Sky. “But if there are trade deals in place, it becomes a different equation for me.”
Google and Facebook have not released details of the value of their deals with publishers, but they are not expected to reach the billion Australian dollars a year that News Corp has reported to tech groups due to Australian media owners.
Google last year pledged $1 billion over three years to pay global publishers and said it had struck deals with 450 “news partners”.
Facebook has made less progress in signing deals with publishers although it remains in negotiations, people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The Sydney Morning Herald, the Nine-owned newspaper that first reported on the proposed deal between Google and its parent company, said it would be worth more than AU$30 million a year.
The Financial Times has commercial news deals with Google and Facebook.
Additional reporting by Richard Waters in San Francisco and Alex Barker in London