Tech giant Google has agreed to pay news publishers in Canada US$73.6 million a year or 100 million Canadian dollars to keep links to news articles in its search results. The deal comes days ahead of a national law that is set to take effect, requiring tech companies to pay news outlets for using their content online.
The search engine had earlier threatened to stop serving news links in response to the new law. However, Google was able to strike a deal with the Canadian government before the rollout of the Online News Act, planned for 19 December 2023.
This deal comes as a huge relief for news publishers in Canada. The Online News Act, arguably the most anticipated news in media policy last year, was initially expected to give news businesses from deals under the bill a total compensation of US$329.2 million annually, Wan-Ifra’s Elena Perotti had reported in 2022.
Specifically, the purpose of the Online News Act is to regulate digital news intermediaries to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contribute to its sustainability.
The Act draws inspiration from Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, particularly in its adoption of a final offer arbitration. Both the Act and the Code aim at correcting a ‘significant bargaining power imbalance’ between news businesses and tech giants by forcing negotiations on the remuneration of news content, Indian Printer and Publisher reported.
If Google followed through with its threat to remove links to news articles in search, organic traffic would have been impacted, which would have negatively affected the value of the publishers’ ad space.
Canadian heritage minister Pascale St-Onge said in a statement that the ‘single collective’ paid by Google would be distributed to a wide range of news businesses across the country, including independent news businesses and those from Indigenous and official-language minority communities.
Although the Canadian government and Google have agreed to resolve issues between both parties, the final regulations have yet to be confirmed.
Alphabet president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a statement, “Following extensive discussions, we are pleased that the Government of Canada has committed to addressing our core issues with Bill C-18. While we work with the government through the exemption process based on the regulations that will be published shortly, we will continue sending valuable traffic to Canadian publishers.”
Despite Google’s announcement, Meta stands firm on its decision to remove news from Facebook and Instagram in Canada. Meta spokesperson, Lisa Laventure, said in a statement, “Unlike search engines, we do not proactively pull news from the internet to place in our users’ feeds and we have long been clear that the only way we can reasonably comply with the Online News Act is by ending news availability for people in Canada.”
The Indian scene
There is increased clamour among Indian news publishers too for a better share in the ad pie from Google and Meta. News publishers in India are calling for more bargaining power against the IT giants, who are said to be abusing their dominant positions, imposing unfair terms on media organizations, and not giving them their due share of the digital revenues.
The News Broadcasters & Digital Association, the DNPA, and the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) filed three separate complaints against Google with the CCI which clubbed all the cases owing to their similar nature.
The INS has asked Google to compensate them for carrying their content online by sharing 85% of its ad revenues. DNPA says more than 50% of the total traffic on news websites is routed through Google, which determines which websites get discovered. The News Broadcasters also want adequate revenue for their content on Google.
The DNPA includes big media houses such as Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, Malayala Manorama, ETV, India Today Group, Times Group, Amar Ujala, Hindustan Times, Zee Media, ABP Network, Lokmat, NDTV, and New Indian.
The government of India was also mulling regulatory interventions to force tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple to pay Indian news publishers, both print and digital, a part of their revenue for using their original content.
Rodney Sims, ex-chairperson of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had earlier said India should take a cue from the Australian News Media Bargaining Code that governs commercial relationships between Australian news businesses and ‘designated’ digital platforms.