UPDATE 1-Italy antitrust body closes Google probe

Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:08am EST

* Follows commitments by Internet search group

* Google had risked heavy fines

(Writes through; adds Google statement, background)

ROME, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Italy's antitrust authority closed a probe into whether Google coerced local newspapers into posting stories on its news site, it said on Monday, accepting commitments proposed by the internet search group.

The probe was opened in August 2009 after the Italian Federation of Newspaper Editors alleged that any publication refusing to appear on the Google News Italia website was excluded from Google's search engine.

Italy's antitrust agency chief had urged Google to talk with Italian publishers to resolve the issue, or risk heavy fines.

Google has now ensured newspaper publishers will not have content excluded from the search engine and pledged to disclose revenue-sharing mechanisms, the authority said.

Google said in a statement it had addressed the concerns of publishers.

"While we comply with Italian and EU competition laws, we also understand that there is always room for improvement in our business," it said.

The editors' association represents media groups such as RCS Mediagroup and L'Espresso, among others. (Writing by Catherine Hornby; Editing by David Holmes)

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