News Corp, ultimate owner of the Sun and Times newspapers, has pushed for Google to be broken up to “remedy harms” that its online dominance has done to news publishers and consumers.
The publishing firm, owned by Rupert Murdoch, suggested Google sell off either its search engine or the rest of its business in order to weaken its “substantial market power”.
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News Corp called for the tech giant to be split up in a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) following the preliminary report of its inquiry into digital platforms.
The preliminary report, which was published in December, did not recommend that tech firms such as Google or Facebook be broken up.
In its submission, News Corp said: “Google leverages its market power in both general search services and ad tech services to the detriment of consumers, advertisers and news publishers.
“To remedy these harms, Google could either sell Google Search, or retain Google Search and divest the rest of its businesses to a third party.”
It added: “News Corp Australia recognises that divestment is a significant remedy, which may involve global coordination, however the ACCC should support it in light of the overwhelming market power that Google holds in relation to online search and its advertising businesses.”
Although News Corp made other recommendations in its response to the report, it said the break up of Google “may represent the most effective and conclusive remedy the ACCC could recommend”.
Google has yet to reply to a request for comment from Press Gazette.
Google’s parent company Alphabet, which also owns Youtube, made revenues of more than $100bn in 2018.
News Corp told the ACCC that if it believed the break up of Google to be “inappropriate”, it could instead recommend the “functional separation” of Google’s ad technology services – such as Google Ads and Google Ad manager – in an effort to “restore a level playing field in the supply of digital advertising services”.
The publishing giant also recommended stopping platforms from using news content without “fair compensation” for publishers, limiting their access to data on the websites of publishers and forcing platforms to hand publishers all data on visits to their websites.
Google and Facebook’s dominance of the digital advertising market, which is squeezing out newspaper publishers who are moving online as print incomes plummet, is a cause of ongoing concern in the news industry both in the UK and abroad.
Press Gazette launched the Duopoly campaign in April 2017 calling on Facebook and Google to “stop destroying journalism” and pay more back to news publishers on whose content they rely to fill their platforms.
In January last year, Murdoch called for Facebook to pay a fee to trusted news brands that appeared on its platform after the social media platform announced algorithm changes would see demote news content on feeds.
News Corporation owns the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, and is the parent company of Sun and Times publisher News UK.
Picture: Reuters/Brendan McDermid