You're wrong on Google, Chavern tells US trade reps

America's giant News Media Alliance has taken issue with the country's trade representatives over its criticism of Australia's proposed media bargaining code.

"Flatly arrogant" threats by Google and Facebook show how little they care about their users and society, NMA president and chief executive David Chavern tells US Economic Council director Brian Deese and US trade representative designate Katherine Tai in a letter today.

The USTR criticism - in a submission to the Australian Senate committee discussing it - came in the last days of the Trump Administration, and appeared to pressure the Australian government to suspend the planned bargaining code.

It came at the same time as local Google managing director Mel Silva telling the committee the search giant would have to withdraw from Australia if the code became law.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison's response to Google might apply equally to the USTR: "We don't respond to threats," he said.

Chavern says the US trade letter "is in stark contrast with the well-documented and highly-regarded views of leaders of the US Congress, which support collective negotiations to correct the gross imbalance of power in the marketplace.

"Continued attempts to undermine global efforts to ensure adequate and fair compensation for news publishers undermines the value of news publishers' intellectual property internationally and may result in thousands of job losses in the US."

He says the Office of the United States Trade Representative should represent the whole of the country, "not the interests of just a few dominant companies".

Opposing Australia's efforts to protect high-quality journalism "risks doing just that while undermining the legitimate interests and financial incentives of both news publishers and the civil society at large".

Chavern added that Australia was not alone in wanting to assure the continued creation and delivery of quality news and information in their country. "The flatly arrogant threats made by Google and Facebook to remove themselves from the country show how little they regard the interests of their users and the societies they live in.

"Thankfully, Australians get to determine what happens in Australia - not two private companies based thousands of miles away."

National daily The Australian this morning quoted both the European Publishers Council and the UK News Media Association in support of Australia's action.

EPC executive director Angela Mills Wade said said Google leaving the lucrative Australian market would be self­defeating.

"Australia's lead will no doubt prove the dress rehearsal for other jurisdictions which are determined to bring these digital gatekeepers under democratic control," she said.

A statement by the News Media Association - which represents both large and small UK publishers - said the Australian media code could become the international blueprint for how news media companies could secure fair compensation for their content, which is exploited by the digital platforms for financial gain. Steps in Australia "set an important precedent" for other countries.

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