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18 September 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:44am

Google flips the hamster at Rupert Murdoch over charges of “inappropriate” behaviour

News Corp's chief executive wrote to the EU's competition commissioner to complain about Google's power over online media - and the Silicon Valley company was all to happy to illustrate the irony.

By Media Mole

This week saw Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp finding itself having to put up with some of its own medicine.

NC’s chief executive, Robert Thomson, penned a letter to the EU’s competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia about what the company perceives to be “an unaccountable bureaucracy” which enables “piracy”:

Google has been remarkably successful in its ability to monetize users, but has not shown the willingness, even though it clearly has the ability, to respect fundamental property rights.

By tracking readers and exploiting its dominance in online advertising, Google is commodifying the audience of specialist publishers and limiting their ability to generate advertising revenue.

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The internet should be a canvas for freedom of expression and for high quality content of enduring value. Undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society. There will be no shortage of opinions, in fact, opinions will proliferate, but they will be based on ever flimsier foundations. The quality of discourse will inevitably deteriorate and the intemperate trends we are already seeing in much of Europe will proliferate.

Basically, News Corp doesn’t like that it’s paying people to write stuff, but Google’s both a) making money from ads running next to links to that stuff, and b) it can pick and choose which publications get traffic and which don’t, putting smaller publishers at risk. Which, y’know, is a fair point.

But Google’s response was, in its entirety, this:

Phew what a scorcher! Murdoch accuses Google of eating his hamster.”

(For our younger readers, this is a reference to this famous Sun front page.)

As pointed out by Roy Greenslade, there’s a supreme irony that a media organisation which has done its best to attack the legitimacy the EU for decades is now asking it for help – and also that News Corp has had a huge dominance over the media of the English-speaking world over that time too, shaping political discourse and influencing the outcomes of elections. Complaining about the threats to freedom of expression posed by media monopolies is doubly ironic as News Corp, until recently, was trying to buy out major US rival Time Warner.

Not so nice on the receiving end, eh, lads?

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