Indian Govt to ask Big Tech to share ad revenue with news publishers

Australia, Germany, and Canada have already imposed such conditions

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Indian Govt to ask Big Tech to share ad revenue with news publishers
The government feels digital advertising is in the hands of a few biggies, leaving Indian media companies at a disadvantage. Photo: Pexels

In a significant move, Big Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple may have to pay Indian news publishers, both print and digital, a part of their revenue for using their original content.

It is possible that the revenue sharing agreement would be along the lines of agreements in Australia, France, Spain, Germany, and Canada, if an Indian government plan materializes, the Times of India recently reported.

The minister of state for electronics and information technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar told the publication that regulatory interventions in the form of revisions in IT laws could be made to this effect if needed. He told the newspaper that the market power of digital advertising is being consolidated in the hands of only a few Big Tech majors, leaving Indian media companies and many original content creators at a disadvantage. “The news publishers have no negotiating leverage at all, and this needs to be tackled effectively,” Chandrasekhar said on July 16.

In February, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) asked Google to compensate them for carrying their content online by sharing 85% of its ad revenues. Raising this issue, the Indian news publishers, both print and digital, had been calling for action against Google for allegedly imposing unfair terms on them and abusing its dominant position. 

The Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) and the INS had approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which has an ongoing probe against Google, noting that the tech giant had prima facie abused its dominant position in providing its news aggregation services.

The primary allegation raised by the DNPA is that more than 50% of the total traffic on the news websites is routed through Google, and it being the dominant player determines which news websites get discovered, as the Indian Printer and Publisher reported on 10 January.

The DNPA comprises the digital platforms of some of the leading Indian newspapers and media groups, and includes platforms such as Eenadu, Malayalam Manorama, Bennett Coleman, Indian Express, NDTV, India Today, and the ABP group.

Google has already been compelled by the competition commissions of the governments of Australia, France, and Germany to come up with a fairer way of sharing revenues with news publishers. In addition, the Competition Authority in France levied a fine of 500 million Euros on Google for non-compliance with its suggested measures, against which Google has decided not to appeal.

“After issuing interim measures in April 2020 and then sanctioning Google in July 2021 for 500 million Euros for non-compliance with these measures, the Authority welcomes the commitments made by Google,” said Benoit Coeure, president of the French Competition Authority.

“For the first time in Europe, the commitments made by Google provide a dynamic framework for negotiation and sharing of the necessary information for years to come,” Coeure added.

According to a report in IANS, Google signed deals to pay more than 300 publishers in Germany, France, and other EU countries for using their content. Canada introduced a law this year to bring about fairness in revenue sharing between digital news publishers and intermediary platforms. 

Australia was one of the first countries to come up with a new law requiring platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay local news publishers to link their content on their news feeds or search results. The agreement was forced by the government as Google and Facebook declined to amicably negotiate with the news publishers.

In fact, there has been an increased clamor and action against the Big Tech with many countries imposing fines in the form of millions of dollars or launching probes over their alleged monopolistic practices and privacy law violations.

Union minister of electronics and information technology Ashwini Vaishnaw recently told news agency ANI that the government was working to make social media more accountable, starting with self-regulation, industry regulation, and followed by government regulation.

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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