Media groups have reiterated calls for the government to engage with Silicon Valley over news content, despite Google’s plans to start paying for selected stories in New Zealand.

Tech giant Google has confirmed that its news platform, Google News Showcase, will begin talks with potential Kiwi partners “later this year”.

If launched, an NZ version of Showcase would see Google pay Kiwi media companies to supply and produce content. The stories would then be available for free on Google News and the Google search engine.

Google plans to negotiate with large and small media outlets in New Zealand, following the template set by the Australian version of Showcase. There is no set date for the launch, however.

In a further development, Stuff has announced a new project to tackle covid-19 vaccine misinformation in NZ, funded by Google’s News Initiative Fund.

The announcements mark some of the first steps taken by the digital giants to pay for print and digital news content in New Zealand. 

It follows pressure from the Australian government to bring the tech titans to the negotiating table by introducing a new law to force them to pay for stories.

Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code has resulted in Facebook and Google striking commercial deals with Nine Entertainment and News Corporation.

Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said the group was “looking forward to having active discussions with Google” about News Showcase.

However, Boucher doubled down on calls for the government to introduce its own code. She said government backing for the media would strengthen the sector’s negotiating position.

“The Australian Media Bargaining Code has helped lead to productive outcomes in that market and placed a fair market value on news content, and we look forward to discussions in a similar vein here,” she said.

An NZME spokesman said the group was “watching with interest developments in Australia and other countries in terms of the relationships between local news organisations and global social media and tech companies”.

The spokesman added: “We look forward to working on this issue with all parties in New Zealand, including Google, Facebook, the New Zealand government and our industry partners”.

Government ministers, which launched a review into the relationship between the media sector and tech giants last year, are believed to be lukewarm on an Australian-style approach.

Media insiders said they had not heard of serious plans underway to introduce a news code, nor plans to force Facebook and Google to set up their news platforms in NZ.

Sources said NZ ministers were keen on a “less combative” way of engaging with the tech giants and wanted media groups to strike their own deals with the digital platforms, without intervention from Wellington.

However, the government has not yet ruled out an Australian-style code or alternative media regulation in New Zealand, with the issue remaining under review as the impasse continues, sources said.