Microsoft President Urges Biden To Follow Australia’s ‘Innovative’ News Media Bargaining Code

Redmond, WA, USA - January 30, 2018: One of the biggest Microsoft signs is placed next to green trees at a public intersection near Microsoft's Redmond campus

Microsoft president Brad Smith has urged the Biden administration to follow Australia’s lead in making Google pay for news content.

In a blog post, Smith describes Australia’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code as “an innovative prescription” to the imbalance between tech companies and media businesses.

“The legislation will redress the economic imbalance between technology and journalism by mandating negotiations between these tech gatekeepers and independent news organizations,” Smith said.

“The goal is to provide the news organizations with compensation for the benefit derived by tech gatekeepers from the inclusion of news content on their platforms.”

Smith also compared the Australian government’s proposal with similar efforts that have been made in Europe in the past.

“The Australians have thought about this, and they’ve developed a creative answer. First, they permit the news organizations to join for purposes of collective bargaining,” he said.

“And second, in the event of an impasse, they require the parties to appoint an arbitration panel that will engage in “baseball arbitration” – an approach in which an arbitrator chooses one of the final offers made by the two sides.”

Smith also pointed to last month’s Capitol riots and suggested the imbalance between tech giants and the independent media “goes to the heart of our democratic freedoms”.

“The United States should not object to a creative Australian proposal that strengthens democracy by requiring tech companies to support a free press. It should copy it instead,” he said.

It comes after Microsoft held talks with the Australian government about potentially utilising Bing to replace Google.

Speaking about the move, Smith said it was an opportunity “to co,bine good business with a good cause”.

“Unlike Google, if we can grow, we are prepared to sign up for the new law’s obligations, including sharing revenue as proposed with news organizations,” he said.

“The key would be to create a more competitive market, something the government can facilitate. But, as we made clear, we are comfortable running a high-quality search service at lower economic margins than Google and with more economic returns for the press.”

Google continues its push for News Showcase

While Microsoft has urged the US government to follow Australia’s lead, locally, Google is still pushing to have the legislation amended.

After launching its News Showcase initiative in the UK and Argentina yesterday – in a move which will see 160 publishers paid for news content – Google has called on the Australian government to consider including the Showcase as part of the code.

“We’ve been very clear that Showcase would work under the Code, not as an alternative to it,” said Google Australia & New Zealand Director, Government Affairs & Public Policy Lucinda Longcroft.

“Good faith negotiations and remuneration would apply to Showcase, with disputes resolved through standard arbitration, with guaranteed revenue flow. Standard offers would also be available to all registered news media businesses including smaller and regional publishers.”

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