News organisations in India and around the world received a major shot in the arm on August 22 as US lawmakers rolled out a bill that paves the way for media entities to be able to collectively negotiate with Big Tech platforms such as Google and Facebook.
The US move to hand power to media organisations to legally and rightfully claim their fair share of the revenues amassed by technology giants by displaying news is a significant development for India.
The Indian government and the country’s news organisations have both been looking to democratise the digital media space, and the development in the US towards that direction is a big boost since America is seen as a beacon of democracy and free speech.
The revised version of the US bill is dubbed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. American lawmakers who are pushing it say it “removes legal obstacles to news organisations’ ability to negotiate collectively and secure fair terms from gatekeeper platforms that regularly access news content without paying for its value.”
The development in the US comes at a time when representatives of Big Tech giants in India are testifying before a Parliamentary panel in New Delhi regarding anti-competitive practices.
On August 23, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance summoned the representatives of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, and a few others to face some tough questions on Big Tech’s monopolistic practices in the country.
BJP lawmaker and former Union minister Jayant Sinha is chairing the expected deposition of tech giants before the committee, which is also set to question representatives from Flipkart, Ola, and Oyo.
The government, led by Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has been at the forefront of the global drive to rein in Big Tech’s monopolistic practices in terms of netizens’ rights and revenue-sharing with digital news media.
Also read:Reining in Big Tech
MoS Chandrasekhar recently underlined the Indian government’s focussed approach on pushing for a more transparent and democratic internet space, saying in a media interview, “We expect our policies today and in the future to ensure that there is no market distortion by any platform.”
As part of that drive to democratise the digital space, the IT ministry will release the first-ever audit of social media platforms’ compliance with India’s IT rules and regulations on September 30. The landmark audit, initiated by MoS Chandrasekhar, will be a quarterly affair.
In another development, India is learnt to be drawing up a whole new IT law, so far unofficially dubbed the Digital India Act, according to a news report. The new law could reportedly include provisions to address Big Tech monopolies, redefine their obligations for competition compliances, and put in place gatekeeping rules regarding market dominance.
The report further says that India’s IT ministry is closely studying the laws of about 20 countries, especially the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) that were recently brought in by the EU.
In the US, the revised bill’s earlier version was introduced in March 2021 and was strongly opposed at that time by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice – two Big Tech trade bodies. Alphabet and Meta, who own Google and Facebook respectively, are members of these two organisations.
The Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), which is a platform of the digital arms of India’s top media organisations, welcomed the development in the US. “It’s heartening to see American lawmakers pushing hard to cap the monopolistic tendencies of powerful tech platforms such as Google,” a source at the DNPA said. “It is a big step in the right direction. It vindicates our stand here in India as we strive to make Big Tech more transparent, inclusive, and accommodative in terms of revenue-sharing.”
The DNPA has been arguing for the last couple of years about the need to make Alphabet’s Google more transparent with its disputed revenue-sharing model with India’s digital media houses.
Earlier this year, the Competition Committee of India (CCI) launched a probe against Google for alleged malpractice in sharing revenue with digital news entities. The CCI’s investigation followed a complaint from the DNPA.