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Govt intervention necessary for digital news players to get fair ad revenue share from Google, say experts

With CCI probing into Google for a fair share of ad revenues with digital news publishers, no significant change can happen without government intervention, as per experts

With a bill being introduced in America which aims to allow small publishers to collectively negotiate and strike a deal with Google, Indian digital news players too are hopeful of getting their fair share of ad-revenues from the tech giant, however, they feel it can become possible only after government intervention. 

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The bill in the USA has come at a time when the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is investigating the matter of ad-revenue sharing between Google and the news publishers in India.

The new bill aims to bring changes to the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in the US, to enable news publishers with fewer than 1,500 full-time employees and non-network news broadcasters to collectively work on winning better deals from the tech giant. 

According to an executive from a leading Indian digital news platform, who spoke to under conditions of anonymity, the US is now joining the list of many countries who are trying to salvage their news industry, which has lost their primary source of revenue- advertising - to the tech players.

“This move by the US government is aimed at strengthening journalism, as increased revenue will further lead to better content and job opportunities in the media industry which has been on the verge of extinction in many places,” the executive said.

Furthermore, while discussing the nitty-gritty of the new bill, the executive also said, “In the distribution, 65% of the allocation to the news organisations will be on the basis of the percentage of their overall budget which was put forth, earlier.”

Commenting on the matter at hand, Sujata Gupta, Secretary General, Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), stated, “Any move to have a more equitable and fairer share is welcome. India and the US are great democracies where the media has an important role to play, as a result, the concerns of lawmakers in India and the US, as we understand, are of similar nature.”

Furthermore, she also went on to add that based on the issue raised by DNPA, which is a collective front made up of some of the top media houses in the country, the CCI is already probing the matter related to Google.

The executive also stated that it was the small publishers in the US who form a part of the collective front to negotiate deals with Google and not the bigger players like Wall Street Journal, New York Post or Washington Post, amongst others. He went on highlight the issue that bringing the smaller players together back home could be troublesome.

“In the absence of a law or framework, it is really difficult to have a collective voice. In the industry too, the players are pitted against each other, so bringing a common voice amidst different mindsets and interests is very difficult,” he pointed out.

Moreover, he also emphasised that in India, no matter how good the intention, there has not been a single instance wherein the media players have been able to come together to form a collective front to solve an issue at hand.

As per Abhinandan Sekhri, General Secretary of DigiPub, Co-Founder and CEO of Newslaundry, “There are enough examples of Google’s revenue sharing with news publishers that can be innovated upon and implemented in India.”

He also went on to add that the key difference would be whether it is done through a government directive or an arrangement worked out by Google and media players.

“Government intervention can be a double-edged sword, so that will have to be considered through dialogue,” he asserted.

Sekhri also pointed out that with the US media players hopeful of striking a deal with the tech giant, other nations are also likely to have conversations about the same.

“We are in the era of transnational mega-corporations and associations of those who exist in that ecosystem should have such conversations.”

Although DNPA’s Gupta did not mention a specific timeline by which the changes would come into effect in India, she concluded by saying, “We are confident that good things would happen soon for the digital media publishers of India.”

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