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‘Not the point’: Nine CEO Hugh Marks fires back at Google over $10m news claims

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Google Australia boss Melanie Silva argued this week that the company generates just $10 million in revenue a year from news-related queries in Australia and that publishers benefit more from search traffic than Google does from news.

Media companies, including Nine and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, have been campaigning for the digital giants to pay publishers up to $1 billion to compensate them for the benefits they derive from having news on their platforms.

Under a payment model proposed by Nine, which was submitted to the competition regulator on Friday, money would be collected from the digital giants and put in a pool which would be distributed between large and small publishers by a collecting society, such as the Australian Press Council or The Australian Communications and Media Authority.

But most of the money from Google and Facebook and subsidiaries like WhatsApp and Instagram, would be given to the larger organisations like Nine and News Corp Australia, which owns The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun.

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“Basically what you are doing is recognising dollar investment in journalism … we’ve defined relatively narrowly to make sure it is focused on news … rather than entertainment,” Mr Marks said.

“The alternative would be split it based on traffic or clicks, but you can play games with how you grow the number of clicks which we think is a bad incentive. The majority should go to the larger organisations that are spending significant amounts in journalism.”

Mr Marks said bilateral negotiations should occur if a digital platform wants to use news content is a more “sophisticated” way.

The ACCC is currently working with publishers and the tech platforms on a compulsory code to manage the relationship between the two groups. Submissions were due on Friday.

ACCC chair Rod Sims has made no decisions on how the payments will work or how much the digital platforms will be expected to pay, but said last month that payments to media companies would be focused predominantly on the “indirect” value Google and Facebook gain from news content rather than direct revenue from news stories.

In an options paper published last month, the ACCC outlined three main ways to pay publishers: allowing companies to negotiate individually with Google and Facebook and use the code as the basis for arbitration; through the establishment of a collective bargaining agreement, which would allow all media companies to work together on a set price for content in an attempt to receive better commercial terms; or through a collective licensing agreement or fee arrangement, which would include a fixed fee for the use of news content which could be distributed by a “collecting society”.

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