Google News bids Spain hasta la vista. Google is set to shut its news service in Spain from early 2015 to avoid paying massive fees to the country’s media for linking to items on their sites. The move, announced by Google News head Richard Gingras in a blog post on Wednesday, will hurt Spain’s already struggling print media by lowering traffic to their online editions. Gingras wrote that the move was motivated by changes to Spain’s copyright laws, set to take effect on January 1 next year:

“This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable.”

Failure to pay these fees could trigger a fine of up to 600,000 euros per link. The law does not target search engines or social media websites, which also direct large volumes of traffic to news sites — something that could lead to some confusion. Google News will begin removing Spanish publishers from Google News on December 16 ahead of the changing legislation. — Glenn Dyer 

Ten plugs leaks ahead of shareholder meet. Only five more sleeps before Ten Network shareholders meet in Sydney next Wednesday to discuss the company’s latest annus horribilis. Will we see a possible fix in the much-speculated takeover — or whatever deal the company and its advisers have come up with? It’s not looking good — Ten’s share price dipped to 21.5 cents yesterday, a fall of 2.2% in a market down just over half a per cent. The best bet remains a joint deal between Foxtel and Discovery. The leaks have stopped to the media — could the deal be in its final lap, just waiting for word from Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch? Keep an eye on The Australian — Saturday or Monday’s editions will probably have it first.

But it’s not just Ten whose shares remain under pressure: shares in Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media closed at $1.445 yesterday, a touch above the new 52-week of $1.44 low reached earlier this week. Seven’s cost-cutting continues with the quiet announcement yesterday that it had sold its 50% stake in Coventry Street properties, the company that controls the Melbourne TV complex where Dancing With The Stars, Family Feud, Fox Footy programs and Million Dollar Minute are made, as well as being used by independent production companies for their own shows. The purchaser was NEP Australia, the old Global Television company and a major player in live sport broadcasting services.

This deal is important not only for Seven, but as a marker for those in the ABC and commentariat moaning about the current costing-cutting at the national broadcaster. TV skills and facilities are fungible — they are not important assets to own, so long as you have a core group of executives who have strong TV production experience.

That Seven has moved to sell its last shareholding in its Melbourne TV facilities means that even the best commercial network has accepted that. Seven, Nine and Ten all have core production facilities at their Sydney headquarters, not to mention SBS and Foxtel. Not for reasons of nostalgia, but for costs and ease of production and control. Seven’s two Sydney facilities, for example, are heavily used making Home And Away, Sunrise, The Morning Show and other news programs. — Glenn Dyer

On that literary price. It only comes round once a year, at most, but it’s that time again — when you have to agree with Les Murray. The Bunyah Buddha’s spray over the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards — where Tony Abbott overruled the decision of the judges, giving the award jointly to Steven Carroll’s A World Of Their Own (their choice) and Richard Flanagan’s Narrow Road To The Deep North (his).

Murray couldn’t help but blot his copybook — he more or less uses his copybook as a blotter — by revealing the judges’ individual votes (four for Carroll, one for Flanagan) despite the decision being handed down as a collective one. But he’s absolutely right about the absurdity of the Prime Minister, Berlusconiesque, dropping a personal selection into the mix.

The selection is at least partly politically motivated of course. Though Flanagan is a leftie, and TNRTTDN no simplistic patriotic tome, it’s about war, and Australia fighting as part of the empire, and all that. Carroll’s book is set in war too, the Blitz, but it’s focused on private relationships amid that larger setting. It doesn’t give the awards a big theme. It’s just the choice of four of the five judges charged with choosing the best book.

Literary prizes are mostly bullshit anyway, said the winner of a couple. But if we are to have them, they have to have a hands-off judging process. Otherwise literature is simply subsumed to the task of national branding. And, as Mike Carlton noted, there was a bit of old-fashioned politicking with the bumping up of Hal GP Colebatch’s ridiculous and cantankerous misconstruction of the role of unions during WW II.

I suspect there won’t be the usual protest about Abbott’s actions from many of his most vocal critics because let’s face it, literary prizes are like saying “walkies” at the dog pound. Sit tight, let a right-wing conservative decide what the best book of the year is, and hope that next time he picks you. — Guy Rundle

Front page of the day. Pot at Buckingham Palace …

 

Peter Fray

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