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As the Morrison Government remains steadfast on implementing its much-debated media bargaining code and Google threatens to leave Australia as a result, the search engine giant’s competitors are circling.
Bing, in particular, is said to be looking at what would be quite the expansion to potentially become Australia’s primary search engine if Google exits. Bing is currently the second most used search engine in Australia – although it only has 3.62% of the market share while Google holds 94.45%.
The news of Bing’s interest comes directly from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, who have both confirmed that Bing parent corporation Microsoft is watching the space closely.
“I can tell you, Microsoft’s pretty confident,” Mr Morrison told reporters. The PM reportedly had a Zoom meeting with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
“These are big technology companies and what’s important to Australia, I think, is that we set the rules that are right for our people,” Morrison said.
“Having a news environment in this country that is one that is sustainable and is supported commercially, then this is vital to how democracies function.”
Mr Fletcher elaborated on ABC TV on Monday.
“They’re interested in developing the presence of Bing here,” Mr Fletcher said.
“What we can expect is if Google were to leave, and that’s a matter for them, we’re not encouraging that … if they were to leave there are other market participants. It will be an attractive market opportunity.”
Introduced to Parliament in December, the aim of the proposed code is to ensure that Google and Facebook pay for news content, a move that follows long-heard criticism that the media giants have been freely capitalising from the work of journalists and media organisations.
Unsurprisingly, Google and Facebook have slammed the code. Google claims “an obligation to pay for links would break the way search engines and the internet work for everyone” and have said that if the code becomes law, “it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”
Mr Fletcher said the Google withdrawal threat holds no weight against the Government’s plans to move ahead with the code.
“The mere fact a particular business says ‘we don’t like that, if you do that, we’ll exit the market’ – we’re not going to be deterred by that,” Mr Fletcher said.