Canberra — Tech giant Google has launched a platform in Australia offering news it has paid for, striking its own content deals with publishers in a drive to show legislation proposed by Canberra to enforce payments, a world first, is unnecessary.

Only rolled out previously in Brazil and Germany, the News Showcase platform was originally slated for launch last June, but Alphabet-owned Google delayed plans when Canberra moved to make it a legal requirement for Google and Facebook to pay Australian media companies for content, unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

The tech firm, still lobbying the Australian government in private meetings, previously said the legislation was “unworkable” and would force it to pull out of the country altogether if implemented.

With the legislation now before a parliamentary inquiry, Friday’s launch of News Showcase in Australia will see it pay seven domestic outlets, including the Canberra Times, to use their content. Financial details of the content deals weren’t disclosed, and Canberra Times publisher Australian Community Media didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google said in a statement on Friday it looks forward to striking agreements with more Australian publishers, whose position has been bolstered by Canberra’s aggressive pushback against Facebook and Google.

“This provides an alternative to the model put forward by the Australian government,” said Derek Wilding, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Media Transition. “What remains to be seen is if larger publishers sign on to the product.” 

In January, Reuters said it had signed a deal with Google to be the first global news provider to Google News Showcase. Reuters is owned by news and information provider Thomson Reuters.

Google declined to add further comment when contacted by Reuters.

Also in January, Google and a French publishers’ lobby agreed to a copyright framework for the tech firm to pay news publishers for content online, in a first for Europe.

Under Canberra’s proposed legislation, Google and Facebook would have to pay Australian publishers and broadcasters for content included in search results or news feeds. If they fail to strike a deal with publishers, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide the price.

While Google’s public stance on potentially leaving the country remains firm, Australia’s treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Google’s approach has been “constructive” in recent days during private meetings.

“The Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] and myself and [communications minister] Paul Fletcher had a very constructive discussion with the head of Google just yesterday,” Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne on Friday. “In that discussion ... they recommitted to Australia, and we recommitted [to the legislation].”



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