A crucial submission by Google to the media bargaining code inquiry is being kept secret by the government as it mulls potential amendments to the controversial scheme next week.
The government-led Senate Economics Legislation Committee is currently scrutinising the government’s plan to introduce media bargaining code which would require Google and Facebook to enter into final offer arbitration with media companies to determine revenue sharing deals for the use of news content.
The committee handed down its report on Friday, and has publicly released a number of submissions and answers to questions on notice it has received.
During a public hearing last month, Google Australia managing director Mel Silva was asked for a list of amendments required for the company to support the legislation. This was taken on notice by Ms Silva and in its written response, Google said that it had attached a table of these amendments that it is calling for.
But this attachment with the list of amendments demanded by Google was not included in the submission posted publicly by the senate committee. InnovationAus understands this was a decision by the government-led committee rather than a request from Google.
A spokesperson for the committee confirmed to InnovationAus that this was done deliberately as the attachment is “still under consideration by the committee”. This is despite the committee handing down its final report just hours later on Friday afternoon.
The changes are what Google said is required for it to support the code and not follow through on its threat to remove its search engine from Australia.
“These amendments to the code would ensure a framework in which Google can reach commercial agreements to pay publishers, and is held accountable by a standard binding arbitration model based on comparables, without undermining the ability to link freely – a fundamental principle of Google Search, and of the web,” Google said.
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee is chaired by Liberal Senator Slade Brockman. It handed down its report on the legislation on Friday, giving the green light for its passage through Parliament but leaving room for further amendments to be made.
Google’s submission to the inquiry earlier this year does offer some insight into the legislative changes the tech giant is pushing for.
The code should only be applied to Google’s Showcase service, rather than its search function in general, and the final offer arbitration should be replaced with standard commercial arbitration, the tech giant said.
Google also pushed for the algorithm notification requirement to be altered to require only “reasonable notice about significant actionable changes to the algorithm”.
These suggested amendments were likely what were included in the attachment, and it’s unclear why the committee has opted to not release it publicly.
Microsoft has recently broken ranks with Silicon Valley and the US government in throwing its full support behind the code, saying it would happily be subject to it and that the US should replicate it.
The bargaining code legislation will be debated in Parliament next week.