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ProSiebenSat.1: Google’s Search Platform Reduces Choice to Zero

The following is a guest blog post by Heiko Zysk, Vice President and Head of European Affairs of ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, a German media company. Zysk spoke on Wednesday in Washington, DC at a FairSearch panel on the European Commission’s investigation of Google for potential violations of EU competition laws.

Many media outlets have published reports criticizing Google mostly for monetizing pirated content on YouTube. But we must take it one step further to get the big picture. In the not so distant future, most of us will access all kinds of media, from audio services to TV channels and VoD services, with smart connected devices. No matter if you access content via your big screen Smart TV or tablet computer or smartphone, the new bottleneck between you and what you get to see will be the search engine, gradually replacing the relevance of the remote control.

As Google is already abusing its market dominance to push e-commerce traffic to its own offerings, we fear the same developments with regard to news, TV channels, webcasts and also apps for smartphones and tablets. As a media service provider you then have two options: Cooperate or vanish in digital oblivion.

The chilling effect which Google already has on the digital economy has not even been noticed by the European Commission’s DG Competition (the office responsible for enforcing EU antitrust laws to ensure companies compete equally and fairly on the merits). Once Google incorporates a segment like weather or travel into its own universe of Google services, and prioritizes its own results in search, the choice for consumers and other digital entrepreneurs goes down to zero. By comparison, most European media faces obligations regarding, for example, balanced news coverage, separation of editorial and commercial content – and even distributors like Cable TV operators have strict rules to not prioritize their own or affiliated channels and to not prioritize third party content for remuneration.

Again, DG Competition has so far failed to understand the impact a Google ‘TV platform’, which circumvents EU and member states’ regulations, will have on the creative industries in Europe. Nevertheless, there are indications that other Directorates General of the European Commission are seeing the implications which biased search results have on the digital media industries and thus on media pluralism. And this gives us hope that the next Commission will tackle the Google case with a better understanding of what is at stake.

ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG is one of the leading media corporations in Europe, reaching more than 41 million TV households through free TV stations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.