Beginning of the Tussle between Google & Indian News Media
The Competition Commission of India (CCI), India’s antitrust regulator, has opened a new probe into Google’s alleged “abuse of dominance in news aggregation.” It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of news media in a functioning democracy, and it must be ensured that digital gatekeeper corporations do not exploit their dominating position to block the competitive process of finding a fair income distribution among all stakeholders.
The Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), a consortium of major Indian digital media businesses that promotes and defends the interests of digital news publishers, filed the complaint under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act 2002. The bulk of visitors to news websites come from online search engines, according to the Association, with Google being the most popular search engine and thus having the greatest impact on the percentage of ad money supplied to digital news publishers. Google has “abused” its dominating position in news aggregation, according to the Association, causing publishers to lose advertising revenue, with only 51% of the advertising budget going to them.Memberships make for only a third of their revenue, while advertising accounts for the other two-thirds. According to the complainant, news media businesses provide a platform for consumers to interact with advertising, but internet search engines such as Google end up leveraging money and returns far more than publishers. It’s also been argued that Google determines on its own how much to pay publishers for the content they create, as well as the rules that govern how much they must pay.
Google’s alleged unilateral and opaque selection and distribution of ad revenue appears to be an imposition of unfair terms on publishers, according to CCI. Google’s unilateral refusal to pay for the use of snippets of content submitted by new publishers, according to the Commission, constituted a “prima facie breach” of Sections 4(2)(a), 4(2)(b)(ii), 4(2)(c), and 4(2)(e) of the Competition Act 2002. As a result, the CCI has directed the Director General (DG) to investigate the incident and provide a report to the CCI within 60 days, as required by Section 26(1) of the Act. Publishers were also forced to create mirror-image websites using this format, according to the DNPA, because Google cached (saved) all articles in the AMP format and served the content directly to mobile users, limiting paywall options for such articles unless publishers rebuilt their paywall options for AMP. CCI has already initiated an investigation into Google’s play store policy, which imposes a hefty cost on software developers.
How do Digital Advertisements have an edge over Print Advertisements?
The pandemic, which was caused by a novel coronavirus, was a watershed moment for a variety of industries and businesses, with the news media industry suffering the most harm. The epidemic has sped the transition from traditional print to digital media for news consumption. The existing approach is growing increasingly unfair to news organisations as the number of individuals reading news online grows. Google and Facebook control the vast majority of internet traffic, and digital news consumption accounts for up to 70% to 80% of ad revenue. Because of the expanding influence of digital media, the newspaper industry’s revenue has been progressively dropping over the last decade. It was also highlighted that in recent years, media companies’ financial reliance on digital advertising has expanded.
The UK CMA’s Online Platforms and Digital Advertising Study Report, which was created to highlight Google’s dominance in the aforementioned digital environment, shows Google’s dominance in advertising intermediation, with market shares ranging from 50% to 100% in a variety of intermediary businesses. According to a report released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in August 2021, Google provides services across the whole ad-tech supply chain and is by far the largest provider of ad-tech services. According to the report, “Google’s share of impressions is above 70% at every point of the supply chain,” and “it has a share of revenues of 40–70% for services where revenue data is available…” As a result, Google appears to be a significant player in the global market for ad-tech intermediary services.
Scenario in other Countries
This isn’t only an Indian problem. It’s taking place all around the planet. Several countries, including Australia, France, and Spain, have passed laws forcing internet companies to pay content producers for their work appearing in search results. The Australian News Media Bargaining Code is the first regulation of its kind in the world, requiring digital platforms like Facebook and Google to compensate local media publishers fairly when their material is referenced in news feeds or search results. Other countries throughout the world were expected to follow Australia’s lead.
The modified European Union (EU) copyright laws have been implemented in France, requiring digital platforms to pay news publishers for previews of news items. As a result, Facebook was forced to sign a deal with a French lobbying group that represents 300 periodicals in France.
A European Union copyright rule has been enacted in Spain, allowing online news organisations to engage directly with content suppliers. In 2014, Google News was shut down in Spain due to legislation requiring it to pay a collective licence fee to republish headlines or snippets of news.
In the world’s second-largest internet market and greatest democracy, equally tough action against digital firms is essential. The presence of a financially viable, independent news organisation is important to India’s democracy’s health. The existing approach is growing increasingly unfair to news organisations as the number of individuals reading news online grows.
Due to a lack of professionally produced news, the news industry has long claimed that we are left with a social media jungle of half-truths, falsehoods, misleading information, superstition, manipulation, and hate-mongering. The potential for harm has already been observed all throughout the world. Tech giants make the mistake of claiming to be a key source of traffic for news outlets. It is effective in both ways. Around 40% of trending searches on Google are for news, resulting in a large amount of traffic to the site. As a result, tech behemoths get a free pass for the most part. Online platforms should pay news publishers a fair and proportionate percentage of ad revenue generated online. CCI’s efforts should, in theory, lead to the creation of appropriate rules.
Research Paper By – Prashasti Tiwari
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