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Google should pay millions for Swiss news, says study

Google in Switzerland
Keystone/ennio Leanza

Alphabet Inc's Google should in theory pay Swiss publishers at least CHF154 million ($166 million) per year for their online news content as part of any negotiated deals, according to a new study.

News organisations, which have been losing ad revenue to online aggregators such as Google and Facebook, have complained for years about the tech companies using stories in search results or other features without payment. In recent years Google has started paying some news agencies and publishers in certain countries to publish their content.

According to a study carried out on behalf of the German-language publishers’ association Schweizer Medien, published by the 24Heures/Tribune de Genève newspapers on Friday, 86% of people in Switzerland use Google to obtain online information. And media content helps attract and maintain most users on the platform, the study found.

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When using Google, over half of users (53%) stay on Google’s ecosystem and do not click further on links to the publication’s website – they are generally satisfied with the information appearing on the Google search page.

The researchers from consulting firm Fehr Advice, Federal Technology Institute ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich estimate that Google should pay Swiss publishers CHF154 million as fair compensation for the use of their news content.

The calculation was partly based on the amount of advertising revenue Google earns from searches. 

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Google currently does not pay Swiss publishers for their news content. But following the example of the European Union, the Swiss government wants this to change. A project should be put out for consultation in Switzerland soon.

Last May Google agreed to pay over 300 publishers in Germany, France and four other European Union countries for their news and said it planned to roll out a tool to make it easier for others to sign up too.

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The move followed the adoption of landmark EU copyright rules four years ago that require Google and other online platforms to pay musicians, performers, authors, news publishers and journalists for using their work.

Google said last month it was testing blocking some Canadian users’ access to news as a potential response to the government’s “Online News Act,” which is expected to be passed into law. The law, which was introduced last year, created rules for platforms like Meta’s Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers.

Ottawa’s proposal is similar to a ground-breaking law that Australia passed in 2021, which too triggered threats from Google and Facebook to curtail their services. Both eventually struck deals with Australian media companies after a series of amendments to the legislation were offered.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR