Google has welcomed the competition regulator’s inquiry into the impact of digital platforms on Australian publishers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating the impact of Google, content aggregators such as Apple News and social media platforms such as Facebook on the state of competition in media and advertising. The inquiry has taken on a new urgency in the wake of revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s mining of Facebook data.
The inquiry was triggered by the concerns of the former senator Nick Xenophonthat tech giants were damaging the viability of Australian media companies, which have lost print advertising dollars since the digital disruption.
The News Corp chief executive, Robert Thomson, has been highly critical of Google and Facebook, claiming they foster a “dysfunctional” and “debased” online environment that harms journalism.
The vice-president of news for Google, Richard Gingras, said on Tuesday that the company was talking to Australian authorities and publishers about improving revenue streams for local media and combatting “disinformation”.
“We recognise there are important changes going on,” Gingras said during a press briefing from New York. “So yes, it’s hugely important that various bodies [like the ACCC] look into these questions with greater knowledge and sophistication.”
Gingras said he was already working with Fairfax Media and, in a reference to attacks from News Corp, said he would much rather collaborate than “exchange criticisms in the press”.
Launching the $300m Google News Initiative to counter the effects of fake news and falling media advertising revenue, Gingras said the marketplace for information had changed – “no one uses the newspaper like we used to” – and that he was well aware of the impact of Google.
Last year the select committee on the future of public interest journalism heard that 3,000 jobs in Australian journalism had been lost in the past five years, from News Corp, Fairfax Media and the ABC among others.