News Corp Australasia Chairman Hits Out At Google Audio News Plans

Michael Miller, News Corp Australia executive chairman, has issued a stinging attack on Google’s plans to create an audio news service accusing the tech giant of seeking to cannibalise a new growth area for news media in the same way it has done with the internet.

In an editorial for The Australian, Mr Miller said that Google was in the process of asking publishers to break down breakdown podcasts, audio news briefings and radio broadcasts into single topic stories that Google’s algorithm can reorganise into a personalised newsfeed for individual users based on their interests.

Mr Miller said: “That may sound innocuous at first, but in reality, it’s a way for Google to drive consumers from publishers’ websites and radio ­stations, and keep them in the Google ecosystem. In other words, Google intends to profit off the creativity and ­industry of journalists and media businesses without paying for the privilege.

“What worries me about this development is that Google wants publishers and broadcasters to help them build this new business by giving away audio content for free without any commercial agreement to share in the benefits of it. Internet history is repeating itself. For years Google has used its dominance to push publishers to provide news articles for free or risk demotion in search.

“Will publishers now be forced to give Google audio for free if they want to appear in search? Google has tried to portray its audio proposals as a collaboration with publishers on the future of audio news. But it’s no collaboration if the process is one-sided and unfair.

“When Google first began ­decades ago, it was a means for the public to connect with online publishers for their content. This new audio push, however, is proposing the opposite. It disconnects the consumer from the content creator, does not deliver any referral traffic to publishers’ websites, and provides no revenue at all to publishers.

“What it is trying to do is ­destroy the value of news brands. It commodities news — and seemingly the only real financial benefactor is the tech giant itself.”

Mr Miller said one of the key ways forward for correcting the imbalances caused by the digital platforms’ market abuses is to create a playing field where they have to enter into meaningful commercial discussions with businesses.

He added: “These should be based around negotiating fair and equitable models at the start of conversations about business opportunities, not one-sided demands at the point of a monopoly’s gun.

“In commercial discussions and partnerships, it is important to have trust. Sadly in our case, Google’s audio news negotiating terms shows how much that trust is broken.

“Consumers have also had their trust betrayed by data and privacy breaches. They also now know that the “free” services of the tech giants come at a price — the proliferation of unreliable and unsavoury online content, and the denigration of professional journalism, on which a healthy society depends.

“In Australia, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is conducting a world-first inquiry into the impact of the digital platforms on media and journalism.

“The ACCC believes this impact is “profound” and is at a “critical point”: markets have been manipulated by the platforms to favour their own interests; there is a lack of transparency; and consumers’ data and privacy breaches are of grave concern.

“There is certainly no doubt wherever you live — the US, ­Europe, Asia or Australia, we are all at the same critical point: we’ve reached that moment in time when we need a new digital operating landscape — one that’s equitable to all. Let’s not let Google do with audio what it has ­already done to print.”