Australian News Media Bargaining Code Breaks the Internet — Not Kim K

Google Australia's Managing Director has released an open video letter to the Australian Government, saying if they continue with the News Media Bargaining Code, it will be the end of search freedom in Australia. But what's the truth? We tell all...

On the 21 January, 2021, Google’s Managing Director for Google Australia, Mel Silva, released an Open Letter to the Australian Government about their proposed News Media Bargaining Code. 

Silva drives home to all Australians and the Australian Government why the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, which would see Google pay media outlets, is killing basic human rights of choice. 

In the written announcement, Silva also claimed Google will have no choice but to turn Google Search off to Australia if the government continues with the code. 

But what’s the truth? We’re here to show you exactly how the Australian News Media Bargaining Code Breaks the Internet (Not Kim K) and what you can do about it.

The News Media Bargaining Code — What does it mean?

1. Google would have to pay and unfairly prioritise news publishers.

Under the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, Google would have to:

  1. Pay news sources they link to or show in snippets. In turn, this could mean the news you see is not what is more relevant, but who was willing to pay the most.
  2. Give news publishers 14 days’ notice of certain algorithm changes and ‘internal practices’. As Google traditionally keeps this information to themselves to prevent exploitation of algorithms, this is highly unfair to businesses and others trying to rank online.
  3. Have matters not agreed on by themselves and news publishers be decided on by a mediator or arbitrator, delaying news broadcast. Essentially, if a news publisher wants to be paid more, they can let the matter go to a mediator, meaning you have to wait for your news.

2. Consumers would lose the confidence of unpaid news supply.

When you search online now, the Google algorithm ensures you see what is most relevant to your search query, location and more. What you see is clearly marked ads and a host of unpaid results, linking you to more information about your query.

There is no way to pay to receive a guaranteed higher organic ranking, snippet or position, other than if you are paying for an ad — which will be marked as such. So, even the smallest of businesses can compete with the biggest of companies. The fear if Google are paying for news is that it will create a bidding war, with the results you see suddenly becoming that with the greater funds behind it, not what is most relevant.

Google has stated under the proposed law, the term news has also been very loosely defined. This could lead to the infiltration of non-news content, as there is no algorithm to differentiate between the types of content with such loose definitions.

3. Google could shut down their search engine to Australia.

Yes, Google has claimed in their Open Letter to Australia that if the government are to continue with the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, they will be seriously considering turning off their search engine to Australia. But doesn’t Google make too much money off of Australia? Actually, they don’t.

In 2019, Alphabet (Google) had a net income of $34.3 billion. Of this, Australia accounted for $134 million of this in pre-tax profit. Who really gets hurt is Australian businesses.

Google claims around 19 million Australians use the search engine every month. While there are other search engines available (like Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.), the bulk of Australians use Google. With Google no longer holding Monopoly, businesses will have a harder time targeting users, having to divide their costs and efforts.

Read An Update from Google on the News Media Bargaining Code Transcript

“Hi everyone. I’m Mel Silva, and I lead Google here in Australia.

If you’re like most Australians, you use Google Search to find and learn things online. Whether it’s help with homework, an easy dinner recipe or directions to the local take-away shop.

But a proposed new law, the News Media Bargaining Code, would break how Google Search works in Australia. Now, I know that sounds pretty full on, but it’s true.

You know how Search works. You search, we show you links, and you decide what site to go to. The new law means Google would have to pay certain news companies to show you links to their sites. 

Now, remember, we don’t show full news articles. We just show you where you can go and help you to get there. Paying for links breaks the way search engines work, and it undermines how the web works, too. 

Let me try and say it another way.

Imagine your friend asks for a coffee shop recommendation. So, you tell them about a few nearby so they can choose one and go get a coffee. But then you get a bill to pay all coffee shops, simply because you mentioned a few.

When you put a price on linking to certain information, you break the way search engines work, and you no longer have a free and open web. We’re not against a new law, but we need it to be a fair one.

Google has an alternative solution that supports journalism. It’s called Google News Showcase. It would operate under this new law and would support Australian journalism without breaking how Search works. 

Over 400 publications around the globe have already signed. To hear more about our solution for a workable code, head to g.co/AFairCode. 

Thank you.” 

Mel Silva, Managing Director for Google Australia

Frequently Asked Questions About Google & the News Media Bargaining Code

Does Google already pay for news?

Google claims to have supported the traditional news industry in many ways, including:

  • Helping news publishers sell ad space on their website.
  • Partnering with the Walkley Foundation to provide free digital training to up to 5,000 Australian and New Zealander journalists and students.
  • Creating the Google News Initiative to partner with news publishers, journalists and more to help them grow and advance in the digital space. 

Providing emergency funding to publishers impacted by COVID-19, amounting to more than $39.5 million in funding to more than 5,600 publishers in 115 countries.

Did Google kill the newspaper?

A September 2020 Google-funded study conducted by AlphaBeta revealed the loss of classified (newspaper ad) accounts has resulted in a 92% of overall newspaper revenue decline. They claim the decrease in newspaper classified is due to online classified websites, such as Domain, Realestate.com.au, Carsales and Seek.

Google also claims none of these classifieds went to them.

Can’t Google remove news instead of the entire search engine?

As the News Media Bargaining Code has defined news so loosely, Google says it would not be possible for their algorithm to tell the difference between news and non-news content. This means they couldn’t just remove the news, as they can’t tell what they would need to remove.

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