Major Australian media company hits Google’s news salary

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Seven West Media has become the largest Australian news media company to enter into an agreement with Google to pay for journalism in a partnership announced on Monday before the nation’s parliament considers draft laws to force digital giants to pay for news.

Google and the listed television, print and online publishing company have jointly announced that they have agreed on a “long-term partnership” following weekend discussions between Australian Government ministers on media competitions, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google.

Kerry Stokes, chair of Seven West Media, which owns 21 publications, thanked the government and the Australian Competition Authority for their proposals.

“Their unique leadership in implementing the proposed negotiating code for news media has resulted in us being able to conclude negotiations that result in fair payment and secure our digital future,” Stokes said in a statement.

“Negotiations with Google recognize the value of quality and original journalism throughout the country and especially in regional areas,” Stokes added.

The deal was signed under Google’s own model, News Showcase. Google has reached salary agreements with more than 450 publications globally since the News Showcase was launched in October.

Google announced two weeks ago that it had started paying for seven far smaller Australian sites during the News Showcase.

Google Regional Director Mel Silva said: “We are proud to support original, reliable and quality journalism and are delighted to welcome Seven West Media today as a major Australian publishing partner participating in the Google News Showcase.”

The partnership was a significant investment for Google in journalism, not just in metro regions, but in smaller communities, she added.

Neither Google nor Seven West Media mentioned how much the deal was worth. Rival media company Nine Entertainment reported, citing named sources in the industry, that it was worth more than 30 million Australian dollars ($ 23 million) a year.

Prior to the announcement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had said that Google and Facebook were close to coming up with commercial offerings, “which could be of great benefit to the domestic media landscape and see journalists financially rewarded for generating original content as it should be.”

Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Frydenberg’s discussions with their leaders.

Google has stepped up its campaign against the proposed law and tells the Senate committee that has investigated it that the platform would likely make its search engine inaccessible in Australia if the code was introduced.

Facebook has threatened to block Australians from sharing news if the platform was forced to pay for news.

While the digital giants can afford the likely cost of paying for the Australian news they link to, they are concerned about the international precedent that Australia could create.

Google has been under pressure from authorities elsewhere to pay for news. Last month, it signed an agreement with a group of French publishers that paved the way for the company to make digital copyright payments. Under the agreement, Google will negotiate individual licensing agreements with newspapers with payments based on factors such as the published amount of daily and monthly website traffic.

In Australia, platforms can make payment agreements with media companies before the code is enacted.

The legislation would create an arbitration panel to make binding decisions on payment in cases where a platform and a news company cannot agree on a price for news.

The panel usually accepts either the platform’s or the publisher’s best offer and only rarely puts a price in between.

This should deter both platforms and news outlets from making unrealistic demands.

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