Google Australia said a claim by Nine Entertainment chairman Peter Costello that the global search engine profits from local news content was “demonstrably incorrect”.
Costello told Nine’s annual general meeting that the company had invested $1 billion this financial year in premium content across its platforms – which include Channel Nine, nine.com.au, the Sydney Morning Herald and the ‘Age – but Google and Facebook “use this content to generate revenue and build their platforms”.
Tension has escalated between digital platforms and media companies as the government puts the finishing touches to its news media code legislation, which is likely to be presented at the next parliamentary session.
Facebook has warned it will block Australians from sharing news if the landmark plan to make digital platforms pay for news content becomes law. Google says it wants “workable code” and has run a public campaign highlighting what it says is its support for Australian businesses.
The legislation will force Google and Facebook to share their revenue with Nine, News Corp and other eligible media companies, including Guardian Australia, or pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
Google Australia’s director of government affairs and public policy, Lucinda Longcroft, said Google Search sends billions of free clicks to Australian news publishers every year. The company says traffic was valued at $218 million in 2018 alone.
“Mr. Costello’s comments are patently incorrect…Google does not ‘use’ news content – we link users to it, just like we link you to every other page on the web – think Wikipedia entries, to personal blogs or corporate websites,” Longcroft said. . “In fact, most news companies also provide links in the stories they cover, including Nine. Links are part of what makes the web work.
Google says news search queries account for just over 1% of total queries on Google Search in Australia and ad clicks in response to news search queries generated just 10 million dollars in revenue, not profit, for Google.
Last month, a report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found that Google, Facebook and YouTube had increased their already substantial share of the digital advertising pie in Australia, leaving less than 20% to news and other sites. website.
Costello said this loss of revenue for digital platforms threatens the viability of the news industry and that without the news media code, it could become “uncommercial to create all the premium content that we are creating now.”
“This result would not worry Facebook or Google, as it would not affect their global business in any significant way,” Costello said. “But it will affect Australian creators, Australian consumers and Australian culture. We know that these companies have enormous market power and enjoy significant regulatory advantages, including tax advantages that Australian companies do not have.
Google said it invested $1 billion in Australia last year and its search advertising and productivity platforms have generated more than $35 billion in business profits for more than one million Australian businesses.
“During Covid-19, we’ve helped over 1.3 million Australian businesses stay in touch with their customers,” Longcroft said. “We are supporting 117,000 jobs in Australia, including 1,800 jobs within Google and 116,200 across the economy.”
The draft code did not include the ABC and SBS, prompting the Greens to say they would not support the government unless the draft code was updated to include public broadcasting. News Corp also backed the push for the ABC and SBS to be included in the code.