Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella. Source: CNBC
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  • Microsoft has publicly supported the Government’s proposed News Media Bargaining Code which would see big tech companies pay for Australian news
  • The laws have faced staunch opposition from Google and Facebook, who claim the code would hurt Australian journalism more than it would help it
  • Facebook has threatened to ban Australian news from its platform if the legislation becomes law, while Google has threatened to remove Google Search from Australia completely
  • However, Microsoft has come forward and said it completely supports the legislation
  • At the same time, the tech giant said Australian businesses could seamlessly transition their advertising to Bing at no cost
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith said the Bing search engine could fill the gap if Google leaves
  • Interestingly, Microsoft is not currently subject to the new proposed laws but said it would happily follow the rules if they were extended to include the company
  • A nationwide forced switch to Bing could bring some major traffic to the Microsoft search engine, which is currently a far cry below Google in popularity

Microsoft has publicly supported the Federal Government’s proposed legislation that would see big tech companies have to pay for Australian news content.

The new laws, dubbed the News Media Bargaining Code, were first announced in July 2020 and were designed to address a “power imbalance” between Australian traditional media and tech giants like Google and Facebook.

Both Google and Facebook have strongly opposed the legislation, claiming it would harm Australian journalism and have the exact opposite effect to what the Morrison Government intends.

In fact, Facebook has threatened to ban Australian news content from its platform and Google has threatened to remove its search engine from Australia completely if the legislation goes ahead.

However, Microsoft has come forward this week in full support of the new legislation.

The trillion-dollar tech company said it recognises that Australia’s media sector and public interest journalism currently faces “many challenges from the digital era, including changing business models and evolving consumer preferences”.

Of course, on top of speaking out in support of the legislation, Microsoft has also thrown up its own search engine as an alternative to Google.

The era of Bing?

Alongside their support for the new media code, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith were quick to tout the benefits of switching over to Bing if Google makes good on its threats to can Google Search from Australia.

The Microsoft chiefs told Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher the company recognises the important role search advertising plays to the millions of small businesses in Australia.

“Microsoft will ensure that small businesses who wish to transfer their advertising to Bing can do so simply and with no transfer costs,” Brad said in a media statement following his conversation with the Australian government.

“We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors and we remind people that they can help, with every search Bing gets better at finding what you are looking for,” he said.

It’s pertinent to note that, at this stage, Microsoft is not subject to the rule changes under the pending legislation. Still, the company said if the government extends the legislation to include Microsoft, it would be willing to live by the new laws.

“One thing is clear: while other tech companies may sometimes threaten to leave Australia, Microsoft will never make such a threat,” Brad said.

The savvy move by Microsoft to fill the potential upcoming gap in the Australian market seems to have the Prime Minister’s support.

The PM was fairly unphased about Google’s threats, telling Sky News earlier this week Microsoft would be “pretty happy” if Google Search was removed.

“Talking to Staya, who runs Microsoft, Bing would go off,” the Prime Minister said.

These comments come after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Facebook the government won’t back down over the new code even if Facebook makes good on its threats to ban Australian news from its site.

A nationwide forced switch to Bing could bring some major traffic to the Microsoft search engine, which is currently a far cry below Google in popularity.

According to data gathered by Statista, Google has maintained around 90 per cent of the market share of leading search engines from 2010 to 2020. While Bing has been second for much of this time, Microsoft’s market share has only peaked at around 6.55 per cent.

From here, it seems it’s just a waiting game to see if Google and Facebook follow through with their threats or if the Federal Government folds before they do.

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