Seven West, Google strike deal on news

15/02/2021 - 09:00

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Seven West Media has today become the largest Australian news organisation to strike a content sharing agreement with Google, while also announcing a profit recovery.

Seven West, Google strike deal on news
Kerry Stokes says the Google deal recognises "the value of quality and original journalism".

Seven West Media has today become the largest Australian news organisation to strike a content sharing agreement with Google, while also announcing a profit recovery.

The preliminary agreement will result in Google paying to use content from Seven West’s 21 titles on its recently launched Google Showcase platform.

The new platform was launched earlier this month as Google and fellow social media giant Facebook push back against the federal government’s proposed news media bargaining code.

Google had threatened to close its search engine to Australians if the bargaining code went ahead.

The code uses the threat of mandatory arbitration to force the digital platforms to broker commercial deals with Australian media companies for the value they obtain from having news content in news feeds and search results.

It will also force them to comply with a number of strict regulatory provisions, including giving media companies 14 days’ notice of major algorithm changes.

The proposed code, first drafted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, has been pitched as a way to safeguard public interest journalism.

The deal comes after a Senate committee last week endorsed the proposed media bargaining code.

The code will be debated in federal parliament this week.

It also comes after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg spoke to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

"They are very focused on what is happening here in Australia but I sense they are also trying to reach deals," Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio this morning.

"Both the media proprietors and the digital giants recognise we have something that is workable here in Australia, something we can take forward, something that can ensure a sustainable media landscape, and something that will see journalism continue and journalists rewarded for generating original content."

Seven West Media chair Kerry Stokes thanked Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the treasurer and the ACCC for their work.

"Their outstanding leadership on the implementation of the proposed news media bargaining code has resulted in us being able to conclude negotiations that result in fair payment and ensure our digital future," Mr Stokes said in an ASX announcement.

"The negotiations with Google recognise the value of quality and original journalism throughout the country and in particular regional areas.

"Google is to be congratulated for taking a leadership position in Australia and we believe their team is committed to the spirit of the proposed code."

Google Australia and New Zealand managing director Melanie Silva said the deal would cover all of Seven’s 21 publications, including The West Australian, 7News, PerthNow, The Albany Advertiser, The Geraldton Guardian and The Broome Advertiser.

“Our partnership with Seven West Media sees us make a substantial investment in the future of journalism, not just across the metropolitan areas, but importantly in regional areas too where titles like The Kalgoorlie Miner and The Harvey-Waroona Reporter are at the heart of the local community,” she said.

Ms Silva said the publishers that had already signed up to Showcase had received 1 million views of their content in the past eight days.

This includes publications such as Crikey, The Saturday Paper, The Conversation and Australian Community Media, which publishes The Newcastle Herald.

Seven West managing director James Warburton said the company would release more details of its deal with Google following the execution of the long-form agreement, which is scheduled to happen in the next 30 days.

Mr Warburton added Seven West was in negotiations with Facebook but the talks were at an early stage.

Meanwhile, Seven West said first-half underlying earnings rose 24.4 per cent to $165.7 million.

Chief executive James Warburton said the advertising market was showing signs of recovery, and forward bookings were looking positive for the third quarter.

The company reported a net profit after tax of $116.4 million, better than the previous first-half loss of $49.4 million.

Seven West Media owns media services and publications including the Seven TV network, PerthNow and The West Australian.

Shares were higher by 6.38 per cent to 50 cents at 1555 AEDT.

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