Murdoch's News Corp to take aim at Google and Facebook
Google and Facebook are bracing for a fresh attack from the nation's largest media company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which is expected to intensify its criticism of the digital duopoly for undermining traditional publishers.
News Corp will use a submission to the competition watchdog review to put further pressure on Google and Facebook, who are under fire globally for failing to stem the spread of fake news and for recent privacy breaches.
Submssions to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry on the dominance of digital giants are expected to be released by the end of the week with Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment Co also expected to participate.
Sources familiar with News Corp’s submission describe it as lengthy, strongly worded and aggressive.
News Corp controls pay TV group Foxtel, and owns a string of Australian newspapers including Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Melbourne's Herald Sun and The Australian.
News Corp has waged a long campaign against Google and Facebook in recent years, arguing the two digital giants are unregulated, and profit from journalism without paying for it.
As recently as January, News Corp figurehead and executive chairman Rupert Murdoch called for a "carriage fees" to be imposed on the digital giants.
Such a proposal would be a similar arrangement to the US pay TV industry, where distributors such as cable providers Comcast and Time Warner Cable pay content creators like Murdoch’s Fox News to air their channels.
"The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services," Mr Murdoch said in January.
The News Corp executive chairman's comments were in response to an announcement by Facebook that it would reduce the amount of news in a user's feed, in favour of content from friends and family.
News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson has also persistently criticised Google and Facebook, describing them as dyfunctional and calling on them to share revenue with publishers.
US digital giants are fearful of being regulated like media companies. Google and Facebook used their submissionsto the ACCC earlier this month to defend their role in the media.
Fairfax Media (publisher of The Sydney Morning Heraldand The Age) recently struck an advertising deal with Google.
In its own submission, it made a distinction between Google and other digital platforms. Fairfax said it had made “less progress” commercially with Facebook.
Despite an “exceptionally challenging” environment for journalism, Fairfax warns that asking the digital giants to pay for content, or for targeted taxes to subsidise public-interest journalism, was “impractical” and potentially risked editorial independence.
Fairfax described the role of digital platforms as “not entirely dissimilar” to the role of publishers and recommended that they should be “responsible for the content they amplify and distribute”.
The digital platforms have been increasingly uncomfortable about claims they are media companies rather than tech companies, with Facebook and Google regularly distancing themselves from the role of a publisher.