Google is reviving plans to launch its own news website in Australia within weeks, Reuters reported on Wednesday, quoting a local media outlet contracted to provide articles for the venture.
Misha Ketchell, editor of the academic-penned newsite The Conversation, said on Wednesday he was approached by Google “to resume discussions about launching the News Showcase product as soon as possible, potentially in February”.
Ketchell added, “We are working with them on this”. Besides The Conversation, two other local publishers confirmed to Reuters they had content details in place for the new site.
The action is part of Google’s latest tactic as it pushes back against the Australian government’s planned legislation to make the company pay local news providers for content that appears on its search engine.
Australia has proposed a bill that would oblige Google and Facebook to pay license fees to country’s media companies for sharing their journalistic content that brings traffic to their platforms. The legislation is currently the subject of a parliamentary inquiry but is expected to be passed into law soon.
In response, Google has threatened to block Australian users from accessing its search engine should the bill become law. The company argued that the new law would “dismantle a free and open service that’s been built to serve everyone”.
But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that his country would not be intimated. “We don’t respond to threats” he had said last week, according to ABC News.
Google had announced plans to launch News Showcase in Australia in June 2020, signing deals with six small local outlets, including The Conversation, for content. It subsequently delayed the launch, citing regulatory conditions, when Australia’s competition regulator published a draft copy of the proposed media bargaining law.
Google Australia Chief Executive Mel Silva told an Australian senate committee on January 22 that her company had no other choice but to block access to Google’s search engine as the proposed law in its current form was “unworkable”. “Withdrawing our services from Australia is the last thing that I or Google want to have happen – especially when there is another way forward,” she added.