Google launches News Showcase in Australia against Media Bargaining Code backdrop

Seven local publishers have partnered with the search giant as part of the initial News Showcase down under.

Google has launched a limited version of its News Showcase in Australia despite threatening to pull Search from the nation a fortnight ago.

News Showcase, Google claims, provides an "enhanced view" of articles, and aims to give participating news publishers more ways to share important news to readers while having "more direct control of presentation and branding".

The product will appear across Google News on Android, iOS and the mobile web, and in Discover on iOS.

As part of the initial version of News Showcase in Australia, seven local news publishers have partnered with the search giant, Google APAC news, web and publishing head Kate Beddoe said in a blog post.

"The initial publishers featured in today's launch were among the first globally to sign up, providing early feedback and input on how the product could help bring their journalism to the fore for readers," she said.

The Australian publications included in the initial version of Google News Showcase are The Canberra Times, The Illawarra Mercury, The Saturday Paper, Crikey, The New Daily, InDaily, and The Conversation.

The rollout comes off the back of Senators recently saying in parliamentary hearings that they could not tell if News Showcase was a suitable solution for fairly financially supporting news publishers as the product has not yet been tested in Australia.

It also comes a day after Sundar Pichai, the head of Google's parent company Alphabet, met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss the Media Bargaining Code that is currently being considered by Parliament.

Since the code was first drafted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Google has been rallying to scrap the Media Bargaining Code in its current form as it would create a requirement for Google to "pay for links". 

Google has also labelled the code as "unfair", saying it puts the "way Aussies' search at risk". In addition, the company believes it contains an unfair arbitration process that "ignores the real-world value Google provides to news publishers and opens up to enormous and unreasonable demands".

Facebook has similarly taken issue with the code, having threatened to pull news completely from its Australian platform as well.

Amid the stoush between Google and the ACCC, Morrison touted that the meeting yesterday was "constructive".

"I thought it was a constructive meeting," he said. "I have been able to send them the best possible signals that should give them a great encouragement to engage with the process and conclude the arrangements we'd like to see them conclude with the various news media organisations in Australia."

Google announced News Showcase launched last year, along with an initial $1 billion commitment, to build partnerships with news publishers. Since then, News Showcase has launched in a dozen countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, and the UK.

Google has also signed a global deal with Reuters and French publishers. 

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