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[LONDON] Google Inc will spend 150 million euros (US$164 million) funding online journalism projects in Europe as it seeks to alleviate tensions with an industry that's lodged a antitrust complaints over its behavior.
Google will award grants over next three years, Carlo D'Asaro Biondo, the head of strategic partnerships for Google in Europe, announced in a blog posting on Tuesday. Eight European publishers will participate in the plan, including the Financial Times, Die Zeit in Germany, France's Les Echos, Italy's La Stampa and El Pais in Spain.
The European Union has received at least 20 complaints in recent years from publishing groups representing Axel Springer SE, Lagardere and others. They argue that the tech giant's search engine consistently lists publishers' websites lower than results from its own sites such as YouTube and Google News.
"I firmly believe that Google has always wanted to be a friend and partner to the news industry, but I also accept we've made some mistakes along the way," Mr D'Asaro said in the blog post. "We are a teenage 'tech' company after all."
In Spain, Google shut down Google News in the country before a law last December that required publishers to charge the Mountain View, California-based company to display their content. A number of publishers complain that Google uses their content by displaying the headlines and parts of a story without payment.
Mr D'Asaro said Google provides more than 10 billion visits for free to publishers globally each month.
"And let me be clear that those publishers are in control," he said. "They apply to be part of Google News. And if at any point they don't want any of their content to appear in Google News or in our search results, they can opt out." Google stock was little changed at US$555.25 as at 11:51 am New York time, valuing the company at US$383 billion.