Google Launches ‘News Showcase’ Scheme In Australia

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Service launched down under in bid to neutralise Australian government effort to force firms to pay local content publishers

Google has officially launched its delayed news platform for users in Australia, in an effort to circumvent looming government action.

Google in June 2020 had announced its ‘News Showcase’ scheme, which would have seen news publishers in Australia, Brazil, and Germany being compensated for the news they produce.

Google has intended to launch its ‘News Showcase’ scheme in Australia in late June, but in October it officially paused the scheme in Australia due to the government’s new law.

Google chief executive Sundari Pichai

Australian clashes

This pause was because the Australian government continued to press ahead with a world first rule change, that will legally force tech firms to pay local publishers for news and other content they utilise, or even link to, on their platforms.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, a government-appointed panel will decide on the price.

The legislation is currently being reviewed by an Australian Senate committee, and a vote is expected early this year.

Australia’s law is being strongly opposed by Google and Facebook, despite Australia touting the incoming law as a way to protect independent journalism.

Facebook last September bluntly warned Aussie users it will prevent them sharing local and international news on its platforms (including Instagram), if Australia presses ahead with this law.

A senior Google executive was a bit more forthright, and last month warned the Australian government that Google could remove its search engine from Australia over the matter.

Proving there is no love lost between tech firms, Microsoft cheekily told Australia that its Bing search engine was ready to step in, to provide its online search engine for Australian citizens.

But then Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced he had held a meeting with Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai this week, and said the meeting was ‘constructive’.

However Australia was not backing down over the matter.

Meanwhile it had been reported last month that Google could soon restart its ‘News Showcase’ scheme in Australia.

News Showcase

And this News Showcase scheme has been launched this week in Australia, Reuters reported, after Google signed its own content deals with local publishers.

According to Reuters, Google has signed deals to pay seven domestic outlets, including the Canberra Times, to use their content.

Financial details of the content deals weren’t disclosed, and Canberra Times publisher Australian Community Media didn’t immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Google reportedly said on Friday in a statement it looked forward to striking agreements with more Australian publishers.

Google has also signed other deals in different markets.

For example Google in November signed copyright agreements with six French newspapers and magazines, including Le Monde and Le Figaro.

And then last month Google and a French publishers’ lobby recently agreed a copyright framework under which the US tech giant will pay news publishers for content online.

CEO Sundar Pichai has already pledged $1 billion (£778m) over three years to the News Showcase scheme.

But the focus remains on the incoming law change in Australia, and whether Google management will deem it too harsh and force it to withdraw its search engine from the region.

It should be remembered Google had already shut down its Google News service altogether in Spain in 2014, when Spain required news aggregators (such as Google) to pay for a license to use news content.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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