Alphabet to reopen Google News in Spain after govt amends rules

Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration
FILE PHOTO: Google app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

November 3, 2021

MADRID (Reuters) – Alphabet plans to reopen its Google News service in Spain early next year after the government passed new legislation that allows media outlets to negotiate directly with the tech giant, the company said on Wednesday.

The service closed in 2014 after the government passed a rule that forced Alphabet and other news aggregators to pay a collective licensing fee to republish headlines or snippets of news.

“Starting early next year, Google News will provide links to useful and relevant news stories,” Google Spain Country Manager Fuencisla Clemares wrote on a company blog.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with publishers to reach agreements which cover their rights under the new law,” he added.

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a European Union copyright directive that allows third-party online news platforms to negotiate directly with content providers.

The EU legislation, which must be adopted by all member states, requires platforms such as Google, Facebook and others to share revenue with publishers but it also removes the collective fee and allows them to reach individual or group agreements with publishers.

The debate over Google News had pitched traditional media, who backed the old system, against a new breed of online outlets, who expected more revenues from direct agreements with Alphabet and the other platforms than through their share of the collective fee.

Arsenio Escolar, chairman of the CLABE publishers association, which groups around 1,000 mainly online news outlets including leading digital brands such as El Espanol and Eldiario.es, said he was pleased with the new legislation.

The AMI media association, which represents mainly the old guard of traditional media and was in favour of maintaining the previous system declined to comment on the government’s decision.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Nathan Allen and Keith Weir)