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India plans new law for fair payments from tech giants to news publishers

The proposed legislation will be in addition to the proposed Digital Competition Bill, for which public consultations have already been completed

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India, along with other countries, is considering the establishment of a legal framework to ensure fair contracts between news organisations and major tech companies

Rimjhim Singh New Delhi

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India is considering the introduction of a new law aimed at ensuring fair transactions between major technology companies and news publishers. This initiative draws inspiration from measures taken by Australia and other countries to require companies like Google and Meta to compensate for using news content on their platforms, according to a report by Mint.
 
The report quoted sources as saying that this proposed legislation will be in addition to the proposed Digital Competition Bill, for which public consultations have already been completed.
 
In 2022, a parliamentary standing committee on finance, chaired by Jayant Sinha, suggested regulatory provisions to help news publishers secure fair and transparent agreements with influential tech firms.
 
However, it was excluded from the Digital Competition Bill led by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. This Bill aims to create guidelines for major technology companies to promote fair competition in digital markets, the report said, citing sources mentioned earlier.

The report quoted a source as saying, “The proposal for ensuring a level playing field between news aggregators and news publishers is under consideration of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The idea of evolving a separate law is being looked into.”

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is examining Australia’s news media bargaining code and similar upcoming regulations in other nations, the report said.

The report quoted an expert as saying, “Merely the fact that there is a regulation in place has forced Big Tech to come to the negotiating table with news publishers in countries where these frameworks are in place, under the fear that they will be penalised for abusing their position if there is a complaint. This has resulted in revenues of digital news publishers increasing by leaps and bounds.”

Disparity in bargaining power

India, along with other countries, is considering the establishment of a legal framework to ensure fair contracts between news organisations and major tech companies. Policymakers recognise a disparity in bargaining power between media companies, which invest significantly in news production, and tech giants that dominate the digital market, facilitating the connection between advertisers and audiences, the report said.

A committee headed by Member of Parliament Jayant Sinha recommended that digital platforms increase their transparency and face restrictions on their use of news consumer data.

According to the committee’s report on the Digital Competition Bill, the Digital News Publishers Association in India expressed support for proactive regulations on Big Tech to create a fair competitive environment for both large digital firms and news publishers.

According to a February 8 report by Exchange4media in collaboration with the advertising and public relations firm Dentsu Inc, the advertising market in India was valued at Rs 93,166 crore in 2023. The report say digital advertising contributed Rs 40,865 crore to this total and noted an impressive annual growth rate of 36.6 per cent for digital advertising in 2023.

Australia’s bargaining code

Australia’s 2021 bargaining code enables eligible news organisations to negotiate with digital giants like Meta and Google, either individually or as a group, regarding compensation for featuring their news content. Similarly, Canada enacted legislation last year aimed at ensuring equity in the nation’s digital media news sector.

In November 2022, Australia hailed its ‘News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code’ as a triumph.

The Australian government, in a review following one year of the media bargaining code, said, “Over 30 commercial agreements between digital platforms (Google and Meta) and a cross-section of Australian news businesses have been struck, agreements that were highly unlikely to have been made without the Code.”

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First Published: Jul 11 2024 | 9:35 AM IST

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