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14 March 2019

News Corp Australia Calls For Google Breakup

News Corp Australia has put forward a range of remedies to break the tech giants’ stranglehold on the digital advertising marketplace which undermines the funding of news and journalism, including the breakup of Google and a licence fee agreement to ensure content creators are fairly rewarded for their investment.

In its submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s inquiry into the digital platforms, the publisher highlighted the damage to journalism caused by the tech giants’ dominance of digital advertising. 

The publisher said: “Google's position as 'gatekeeper' via Google Search and its market power in the ad tech stack creates real and serious threats to the ability of publishers such as News Corp Australia to generate sufficient returns in order to viably fund news and journalism. Threatening and undermining the security of funding of news and journalism strikes at the heart of our system of democracy.

“Google leverages its market power in both general search services and ad tech services to the detriment of consumers, advertisers and news publishers. To remedy these harms, Google could either sell Google Search, or retain Google Search and divest the rest of its businesses to a third party,” the publisher said.

The publisher suggested that implementing a “divestment remedy” would involve global coordination but said the ACCC, which has published a preliminary report recommending greater regulatory oversight for Google and Facebook, was well-placed to take a lead on the issue.

News Corp Australia’s submission was published this week alongside scores of others this week, summarised by NewsMediaWorks, calling for intervention to defend the content creators from the dominant market power of the tech platforms.

 “The digital platforms have plundered our content which not only damages our businesses but is a gross abuse of market power. CPA urges the ACCC to recommend Government legislation to either stop this or make them pay, or a combination of the two,” Country Press Australia said.  

In its submission, News Corp Australia lays out a detailed series of remedies designed to redress the balance including the proposed break up, such as a licence fee agreement to compensate publishers for the use of their content by the platforms, as called for by the News Media Association in its submission to the Cairncross Review

“This measure would aid consumers by fostering investment in news and journalism by enabling news publishers to be remunerated fairly for the subsequent monetisation of that content by digital platforms. In turn, publishers will be able to reinvest in journalism to ensure a steady flow of content/output quality and quantity for consumers,” News Corp Australia said.

The publisher also recommends the introduction of limits to the digital platforms data such as prohibiting the platforms from using data from a publisher's site to sell advertising on other third-party websites and requiring them to give a publisher access to data generated from visits to that publisher's sites.  

The publisher concludes: “Any solution must be bold. As we previously explained in our previous Submissions, Google's prior conduct reveals a pattern of avoiding and undermining regulatory initiatives and ignoring private contractual arrangements.

“Furthermore, even where Google does appear to change its conduct in response to investigation or regulation, it is often not long before the conduct is replaced with something similar that creates equivalent problems for publishers under the guise of a different name. This track record shows that any solution must be comprehensive, lasting, involve adequate oversight, and be backed by legal sanctions.”

  • The US Senate had been holding privacy hearings this week with Google being questioned on their use of people’s location and other personal data.