Australia’s government said Google and Facebook Inc. are nearing agreements to pay domestic media companies for news, in a sign a regulatory standoff may be softening.
Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held talks with Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Google counterpart Sundar Pichai over the weekend. “We’re very close to some very significant commercial deals,” Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday, according to a transcript sent by his office. “We have made great progress.”
Alphabet Inc.-owned Google and Facebook oppose planned Australian legislation forcing them to pay media companies for news, and Google has threatened to shut down its search engine if the law is enacted. Parliament will consider the legislation from this week, giving the internet giants an incentive to agree compensation terms for news companies before the law is passed.
Facebook declined to comment on any specific talks. “We’ve been engaging with the Australian government to outline our concerns with the legislation,” the company said in a statement. A Google spokesman declined to comment.
If Facebook and Google fail to strike the deals, Australia’s pay-for-news law risks becoming a template for regulators in other jurisdictions including Canada and the European Union that are following the quarrel.
Google proposes compensating publishers through its News Showcase product, under which it pays media outlets for curated content, rather than be bound by the legislation. Seven West Media Ltd., publisher of The West Australian, said Monday it agreed to provide news for Showcase under a long-term partnership.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian government is willing to let the technology companies avoid paying for news snippets if the media companies sign up to Google Showcase and Facebook News.
News Corp. and Herald-publisher Nine Entertainment Co. haven’t yet joined Google Showcase.