Guardian boss: BBC distorting news market in Australia, Google must face 'editorial responsibilities'

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Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller has attacked the BBC for following his company by expanding into Australia.

And he has said that “technology juggernauts” Google, Facebook and Twitter need to take on editorial responsibility for their content if they are going to operate as media companies.

The Guardian launched an Australia-facing website eighteen months ago funded with a loan from businessman Graeme Wood. Mail Online launched in Australia earlier this year.

Earlier this month the BBC’s commercial wing, BBC World, said it was launching a dedicated Australian news service on BBC.com in response to the new launches.

Delivering the annual Polis lecture in London Miller said: “The BBC claims this expansion is because it believes giving Australians what they value is a core part of its mission. I would respectfully disagree.

“The Guardian is one of a relatively small number of commercial British news organisations that is building on its existing base of Australian readers.

“We are investing significant resources in high-quality journalism that connects the views of Australians to global debates on a wide range of important issues from climate change to immigration.

“Contrary to the BBC’s assertions, this is a space that, both editorially and commercially, the Guardian very much shares with the BBC’s commercial activities.

“Australia is already a diverse and highly-competitive market. As such, the BBC's expansion into Australia goes beyond its public service remit. More than that, it does not benefit UK licence fee payers or meet the requirement of the BBC to provide news in parts of the world where there are limited alternatives.

“It threatens a distortion that is not in the interests of audiences or other UK news providers.”

He said the BBC should help commercial competitors in the UK by increasing the prominence of external links on its website and by giving other news organisations access to “raw news feeds coming in from court cases, Royal weddings, key Select Committee hearings and other global breaking news events”.

He also suggested that other content providers should be able to use BBC archive content.

Miller cautioned against “knee jerk” EU regulation to curb the search engine monopoly of Google.

But he said that Google, Twitter and Facebook should not “escape their editorial responsibilities”.

"Editing on these platforms will become more and more essential in order to avoid dangerous, damaging, inflammatory material from being treated as legitimate information."

And he asked whether these companies are being disingenuous by claiming on the one hand they are merely distributors of other people's content but on the other hand making money from media advertising.

"On the one hand, they want to be open and agnostic platforms for the distribution of content with the cost infrastructure of being digital. On the other hand, they make the majority of their revenues from media-related advertising.

"I think they need to be more candid about what they want to be. Platforms without responsibility? Or media companies with the organisational framework in place to make big
editorial decisions."

A spokesman for the BBC said: “The BBC’s commercial operations overseas are not funded by the licence fee and we are happy to compete on an equal footing with all other news providers.

 
“Independent research shows that the BBC’s global activities bring an economic return to the wider UK. The BBC does not stop other news providers being successful, and we already provide footage of events to news providers in the UK on a case by case basis."

Read the full text of Andrew Miller's Polic lecture.

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