News Corp demands Google break up its operation, compensate media and provide data

Rupert Murdoch. Photo: Getty Images.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has urged the competition watchdog to break up Google’s Australian operations to curb its market power.

As part of the inquiry into digital platforms, which started in December 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is accepting submissions on the back of its preliminary report that set the scene for greater scrutiny of the global tech giants.

In its latest submission, News Corporation suggested Google’s parent company Alphabet should be forced to divest Google Search or Google Ad Manager.

“Google enjoys overwhelming market power in both online search and ad tech services, and … it is abusing its dominant position to the detriment of consumers, advertisers and publishers,” News Corporation said.

The Murdoch company said it “recognises that divestment is a serious step,” but this is necessary because Google has “unparalleled power” over publishers and advertisers. The company added that Facebook and Apple News should face greater scrutiny as well.

“If the ACCC were to recommend divestment, News submits that the ACCC should still recommend or pursue the other remedies … in respect of other digital platforms, such as Facebook and Apple News,” said News Corporation.

Those remedies include stopping platforms from using publishers’ content without fair compensation, preventing platforms from using publishers’ data to sell ads to third parties and forcing the tech giants to hand over their data to publishers.

“While we recognise that the truly global nature of digital platforms like Google mean that some of the proposed remedies in this submission may require some coordination among governments internationally to be truly effective, we do not believe the ACCC should shy away from taking action or making such recommendations,” the company said in its submission.

Facebook hit back by attacking the ACCC’s findings in its submission, arguing that the regulator is protecting incumbent media players if it goes down the path of divestment and regulation.

“The … near-exclusive focus on protecting certain publishers from disruption and competition is at odds with the ACCC’s mandate to promote competition and protect consumers, and misapprehends the broader challenges facing journalism and news production,” the social network said.

“Those challenges are distinct from and long predate the arrival of Facebook, which has incentives to promote the interests of news publishers and journalism and has a strong track record of doing exactly that.”

Google responded to the ACCC’s preliminary report last week, where it denied it enjoyed significant market power and resisted the push for greater regulatory oversight.

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