Canadian govt bill to make Google and Facebook pay news media

INS and DNPA ask Competition Commission to protect Indian news media

Journalists – ‘Self-reform and financial transparency in media need of the hour’|news media
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On the morning of 9 May 2022, while The Hindu, The Hindu Business Line and The Indian Express are talking about a government ‘order’ on online news media compensation by the tech giants, there is thus far no evidence that the act tabled in the first week of April in Ottawa has yet been passed. While the federal government tabled the bill in parliament on 5 April 2022, the Act when passed is expected to add to Canadian newspaper revenues by as much Canadian$ 150 million.

Bill C-18 known as the Online News Act would create a framework for news outlets to collectively negotiate deals with tech companies to share online advertising revenues when the parties cannot reach a privately negotiated agreement. It would basically compell the tech giants to compensate Canadian new media for content that appears on their global platforms. Canada’s heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez, who table the bill in parliament said during a press on Parliament Hill, “The news sector in Canada is in crisis and this contributes to the heightened public mistrust and the rise of harmful disinformation in our society… “We want to make sure that news outlets and journalists receive fair compensation for their work.”

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Canadian news organizations and industry lobby groups such as News Media Canada urged the federal government to follow Australia’s example and introduce industrywide measures that force tech companies to pay for content. While Google and Facebook have been compelled to reach agreements with the news media in Australia and France, the format or terms of the agreement imposed by the Australian agreement is seen as the best deal so far for news media by industry experts.

The proposed Canadian legislation would allow news outlet collectives to strike deals with the tech giants. If an agreement can’t be reached, the news outlets would go to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for mediation. In cases where the mediation fails, the CRTC would initiate arbitration through a three-member panel, which would issue a binding contract between the news outlet (or outlets) and the digital platform. The CRTC would also have the power to impose penalties of up to Canadian$ 15-million each day on the platforms that don’t comply with the rules.

Indian news media appeals to CCI for fair deal from tech giants

As we have been reporting over the past several years, the Indian newspapers have through the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) and the more recently formed Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) gone to the Competition Commission of India to request redressal against the market imbalance imposed on them by the tech media enjoying 80 to 90% of the advertising revenue generated by online news.

As we wrote in end-April, the INS had asked Google to compensate them for carrying their content online by sharing 85% of its ad revenues in mid-February. “Google is taking a ‘giant share of advertising spends’ leaving publishers with a small share and that the publishers are facing a very opaque advertising system as they are unable to get the details of the Google advertising value chain,” it said.

The Competition Commission of India initiated an investigation into complaints against Google for abuse of its dominant position in the online news media market based on a plaint filed by the INS. The INS says that while the news content is generated by the publishers, Google gets to keep an arbitrary and disproportionately large share of the advertising revenue since it controls and dominates the entire digital ecosystem including both buying and selling advertisements. It has also questioned the opacity and obliqueness of the Google ad revenue system.

In mid-April 2022, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) also got into the act and hinted at the possibility of regulatory intervention to enable Indian news media to get a fair revenue share from tech giants such as Google and Facebook. In a consultation paper issued recently, the TRAI said that policy interventions in other countries have played a substantial role in addressing news media concerns and negotiations.

It is not clear whether the seemingly voluntary intervention of the TRAI will help or confuse the process of compelling the tech giants to negotiate fairly and squarely with Indian news media outlets. At the same time it is not clear why the three Indian news media outlets cited above are this morning saying that the Canadian government has passed the Online News Act. Nor is it clear why they are projecting the notion that it is only the digital News Publishers Association (and not also the venerable INS), which they say is representing the “top Indian newspapers and their digital editions” to the CCI for fair compensation from the tech giants.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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