Explained: Google’s Tussle in Australia Over Paying Publishers For News

What’s Going On?

The search engine giant Google has been engaged in a dispute with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The conflict started last year when ACCC brought in a bargaining code that the commission wants to implement. The code is developed for how media organisations can bargain with technical giants like Google and Facebook to ensure fair payment for the news content displayed on their digital platforms. Australian parliament says that the code will efface the bargaining power imbalance between news media and digital platforms. The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.

What does Google have to say about the code?

Google strongly believes that the code is unfair due to ignoring the real-world value Google provides to news publishers. Mel Silva, managing director of Google Australia and New Zealand, said that the company is most concerned with the code’s requirement to pay for links. She also remarked that the code is not compatible with how the internet works. The dispute gained more momentum when Silva stated that if the code becomes law, Google will stop its operations in Australia. Australian senators referred to her remark as blackmail, but she later clarified it is the worst-case scenario. 

Google’s Suggested Alternative Solution

Google, however, is proposing technical amendments to counter the code. One of them is allowing news showcase which will guarantee remuneration to the media houses for their content. Silva said that Google had bagged seven deals with news publishers. It had made 25% good faith payments without the program going ahead. The bargaining code whereas give media houses to arbitrate the offer if they don’t like it. This increases the problem which Google is facing. Silva advised a workable way to do business will be to specify showcase for remuneration and allow Google Search for minimum standards.


The Search Engine giant who once proclaimed that it would never pay for news is now negotiating with the parliament to allow payments through its new licencing program. The Australian parliament strongly believes in implementing the code as they believe that the code is essential to ensure that media corporations’ interest is not jeopardized. They believe that this code will help these corporations earn profits through their content. 

It is a big step taken by the ACCC which has been applauded by global bureaucrats but condemned by techno-giants. With so many search engines on the web, the tactic of shutting Google’s operations in the country seems less threatening. It will be interesting to watch how Google will tackle the legal situation in the continent where the government is reluctant to negotiate. 

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