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 Corp. is also in negotiations and plans to spend any Google revenue on regional journalism.
“Negotiations are 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 on Wednesday. The code would generate 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% of online advertising in Australia, have condemned the code as unworkable.
Google says 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.
Frydenberg said after weekend talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google, that he was convinced the platforms “do want to enter into these commercial arrangements.”
Frydenberg denied he had given ground to Zuckerberg and Pichai by agreeing to amend the legislation. “We have held the line and held it strongly,” Frydenberg said. “And the digital giants have been left in no doubt about the . . . government’s resolve.”
Google confirmed it was “in discussions with publishers large and small.” Facebook is also seeking news deals but said it didn’t have “anything to confirm at this time.”