'$30 million' deal first as Google works to be excluded from code

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As the clock ticks towards a vote on Australia's mandatory bargaining code, deals are being done which may see Google let off the legislation.

Nine's the Australian Financial Review has reported this morning that Seven West Media has signed to provide news content for Google's News Showcase product - subject to confirmation within 30 days - and says treasurer Josh Frydenberg is considering whether to exclude the search giant from designation in the code.

Meanwhile, a potential deal to secure support for the legislation is understood to involve establishment of a permanent Public Interest News Gathering Trust, plus funding for news agency Australian Associated Press, in order to secure Greens support.

Current government funding still trickling out to support so-called 'public interest news gathering' - in the form of the Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package - was part of a deal done five years ago to secure the support of MP Nick Xenophon for media law reform prior to his retirement from federal politics.

Now the deal with broadcaster and publisher Seven West Media - which owns West Australian Newspapers - ahead of the code legislation being passed, may save Google from being 'designated' by the code, which is at Frydenberg's discretion.

A senate committee recommended the passage of the legislation on Friday, and it is likely to be tabled in the lower house as soon as tomorrow.

The AFR said Google's News Showcase deals in Australia already announced with seven publishers earlier this month were "reportedly worth between $200,000 and $2 million". It said Google had reported that the seven partners had received one million views of their content in the first eight days of the product being available. Guardian Australia repeated reports the Seven deal was worth "more than $30 million a year", but said the company would not comment on this, while News Corp's The Australian said the figure was "well in excess" of that.

News, Nine, The Guardian, and public broadcasters the ABC and SBS are understood to be in negotiations with Google.

Following a Zoom meeting with Google boss Sundar Pichai, Frydenberg and prime minister Scott Morrison are reported to have been encouraging quick deals. Google's requested amendments to the code would then have been considered, although if the search company is not designated, this becomes academic.

The SWM deal has been hailed by chief executive James Warburton as "another significant step in Seven West Media's transformation journey", and by chairman Kerry Stokes as "a great outcome" for the company and for Google. "Our new partnership recognises the value, credibility and trust of our leading news brands and entertainment content across Seven and West Australian Newspapers," Stokes said. "The negotiations with Google recognise the value of quality and original journalism throughout the country and, in particular, in regional areas."

Peter Coleman

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