Google shows support for newspaper mergers

Google is calling on the Office of Fair Trading to relax existing merger rules between UK newspapers, saying that present laws do not reflect the increased competition publishers face from search engines and internet companies.

In a letter to the OFT, Google said it would be supportive if publishers, such as Trinity Mirror or Johnston Press, were to merge operations with local and regional newspapers in order to create competitive news offerings.

Senior executives at the Local Media Alliance are also calling for a relaxation of merger rules, saying present laws do not take account the large impact the internet has had on newspapers, especially classified advertising.

Opening up the rules would help newspapers acquire rivals and reduce costs.

The OFT is currently reviewing the rules as part of the Digital Britain report and are expected to announce their decision in June.

Google is facing increased criticism in the UK and US for leaching advertising revenue from newspaper websites by selling its own ads against its search content, which is often used by web users to search for news.

In April, News Corporation chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch said newspapers should fight back against Google, asking "Should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyrights?".

Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson said last month: "Google devalues everything it touches" and "it divides content quantitatively rather than qualitatively".

Google has maintained its position that it helps newspapers by driving traffic to their websites. However, according to The Sunday Times, the company has begun selling advertising on its Google News site in the US.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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