Microsoft offers to step in if rival Google quits Australia


Microsoft has given its support to the Australian media code that has rankled Google.

Smith said that his company Microsoft has always supported the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's efforts to successfully analyse the concerns brought on by the digital era.

On the other hand, Microsoft said that it will ensure that those small businesses who would transfer their advertising to Bing will have easier processes and no transfer costs.

However, it has also recently agreed to pay 120 French media companies more than $142 million over the next three years to promote its Google News Showcase product, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison is bargaining with Microsoft to fill any void left by Google's departure - both of which could reduce the threat in Australia.

But now Microsoft has told the Australian government that Bing, its search engine rival that is a distant second to Google, will adhere to the code if required and continue providing services in the country.

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, an advocacy group, expected the disruption to small businesses created by Google's departure from Australia would be short-lived.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code would see Google and Facebook forced to negotiate with registered media outlets in Australia to share revenue gained from their use of news content, and is now being considered by a Senate Committee.

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Google is against a proposed new law which would make tech giants negotiate payments with local publishers and broadcasters for content included in search results or news feeds, CNBC reported.

But Microsoft is keen to fill any void left by Google, with its United States president Brad Smith issuing a statement in strong support of "the media sector and public interest journalism" and what he called the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's proposal for "world-first solutions".

Mr Smith said while Microsoft was not covered by the current legislation, it would be willing to follow the proposed rules.

"While other tech companies may sometimes threaten to leave Australia, Microsoft will never make such a threat".

Facebook, which would also fall under the remit of the new code, has taken a similar stance to Google. "We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors".

But Smith said the proposal "reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses" and "represents a fundamental step towards a more level playing field and a fairer digital ecosystem for consumers, business, and society". Have you already made the switch or do you prefer to use another search engine? Frydenberg said that Zuckerberg did not convince him to back down.

There are no plans to make smaller search engines such as Bing pay for linking users to Australian news, but the government has not ruled that option out.

"Like the ABC, a public search engine should be independent of the government of the day and be there to provide access to information for all Australians".