Order on news intermediaries like Google is a big boost to digital news editions


A recent Canadian Order on news intermediaries like Google has come as a big boost to Indian newspapers and their digital platforms in their fight against the monopolist exploitation of their news content by Google. Prominent Indian newspapers and their digital editions have been representing against the said abuse of its monopoly and position by the tech giant. 

Google earns a huge amount of advertising revenue from the content generated by the digital editions of these newspapers. However, there is no fair payback or sharing of revenues by Google in this regard, causing huge financial losses to the news publishers in India.

Publishers and governments across many parts of the democratic world are waking up to this exploitation by Google and taking proactive measures to ensure fair play. Judgement in Canada is a step in that direction which is finding resonance in India and many other parts of the world. Google is under the scanner for anti-competitive practices in Australia, France, Canada and the EU.

Such orders would encourage and empower Indian lawmakers and CCI to implement fair play and also support the growth of media and real news in India at a time when Global search Engines can be manipulated to create negative perceptions about India through fake news as well as an inherent bias.

According to the Canadian Order, an Online News Act has been created with the intention to regulate digital news intermediaries with a view to enhancing fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace. The Act applies to those digital news intermediaries and giants like Google who have a significant bargaining power imbalance over news businesses, depending on certain factors, such as whether the intermediary occupies a prominent market position. The order envisages provisions of fair compensation to the news businesses for the news that is made available by the intermediary.

The proposed rule would ensure that platforms like Facebook and Google to negotiate commercial deals and pay news publishers fairly for their content. It may be noted that Australia had also passed a ground-breaking law last year. The law would make it mandatory for Google and Facebook to pay original news publishers for content on their platforms.

Top Indian newspapers and their digital editions are being represented by DNPA in India, in its similar fight against Google for fair play in India. The order in Canada has come at a time when CCI has issued notice to Google on the basis of a complaint registered by DNPA at CCI in this regard

The “Online News Act,” of Canada will require digital platforms that have a bargaining imbalance to make fair deals with news publishers, which would then be subject to scrutinised or assessed by a regulator and if such deals do not materialise, the platforms would have to go through final offer arbitration processes overseen by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications regulator.

It may be noted that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an inquiry against Google for alleged abuse of its dominant position in the digital advertising market on a complaint filed by the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA). DNPA’s members include Jagran New Media ( Dainik Jagaran Group), Amar Ujala, Dainik Bhaskar, India Today, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Times of India, Eenadu, Malayalam Manorama, ABP Network, Zee Media, Mathrabhumi, Hindu, NDTV, Lokmat, Express Network etc .

In an order dated January 7, the commission had directed the Director General (DG) to cause an investigation into the matter under the provisions of Section 26(1) of the Act. The commission has also directed the DG to complete the investigation and submit the investigation report within a period of 60 days from the date of receipt of this order.

“The commission is of prima facie view that Google has violated the provisions of Section 4(2)(a) of the Act, which merits investigation. Further, the Informant has also alleged that above-mentioned conduct of Google results in violation of the provisions of Section 4(2)(b)(ii) as well as Section 4(2)(c) of the Act. The DG can appropriately examine these allegations as well during investigation,” the CCI said in an order.

DNPA has filed a complaint against Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, Google India Private Limited and Google Ireland Limited (Google/OPs) under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002 alleging violation of Section 4 of the Act.

The association believes that more than 50% of the total traffic on the news websites is routed through Google and, being the dominant player in this field, Google, by way of its algorithms, determines which news website gets discovered via search. It further averred that the content produced by news media companies create the context for the audience to interface with the advertiser; however, online search engines (Google) end up leveraging the revenue/returns much more than publishers.

It may be noted that Google is the major stakeholder in the digital advertising space, and it unilaterally decides the amount to be paid to the publishers for the content created by them, as well as the terms on which the aforesaid amounts have to be paid. Sources said that DNPA believes that Google has abused its dominant position in the market and violated various Sections of the Competition Act, 2002.

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