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Google, Facebook must pay fair share of earnings to news publishers, says BJP MP Sushil Modi in Parliament

Google and Facebook must pay their fair share of earnings they make from news content to publishers, said Sushil Kumar Modi, a Member of Parliament form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday. Modi, a former deputy chief minister of Bihar, urged the Indian government to consider mandating “tech giants” such as Google, Facebook and YouTube (owned by Google) to their revenue with traditional media outlets, accusing them of being the cause of severe financial distress in the media industry.

Modi’s address in the Rajya Sabha will likely fuel discussion over the relationship between news publishers and internet platforms run by Big Tech companies. The same day, four other BJP MPs had asked the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) on whether the Indian government had taken note of this subject, and what it was doing about it.


Is Indian Govt Looking Into Relationship Between Tech Companies And News Publishers? MPs Ask IT Ministry


In his address, Modi urged the government to emulate the Australian News Media Bargaining Code, which mandates Google and Facebook to negotiate with publishers over revenue-sharing deals.

Transcript of Modi’s address (timestamp: 20:00 minutes)

Sushil Kumar Modi: Sir, as we all know that the traditional news media like the print media, news channels, news broadcasters are passing through its worst phase in recent history. They are in deep financial crisis. Earlier it was due to pandemic, now it is because of tech giants like YouTube, Facebook and Google. Sir we all know that these traditional news media make heavy investments in employing anchors, journalists, reporters. They gather the news, they verify the news, they deliver credible information. And advertising is the main source of revenue for the news industry. Sir, but in the past few years, with the advent of tech giants like Google, Facebook, YouTube, the largest share of advertisement is taken away by these tech giants.

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[Sir, in recent years, and what I have said, the revenue from advertisements is going to tech giants. Because of this, the print media and news channels] are passing through a financial crisis. I would urge that we should follow country like Australia because we know all that Australia has taken a lead by enacting a law, ‘News Media Bargaining Code’. Last week, the Australian Parliament passed a law by which they have compelled Google to share advertisement revenue with the news media. In Australia, the Google threatened and for one week, they blacked out the news on their portal, but, ultimately, it was enacted and they had to surrender. Australia has set precedence and now France and other European countries are making laws for sharing of advertisement revenue. [I urge the government that] the way they have notified Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code, 2011, to regulate social media on OTT platforms, in the the same way they should enact a law on the pattern of Australian Code, so that we could compel Google to share its revenue with traditional media. India should take a lead in making Google and Facebook pay a fair share of earnings they make from domestically-produced news content on the Internet.

Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha: Okay, this is a suggestion worth considering.

‘Giants eating into media revenues’

Modi, elaborating his views on the subject in an interview to the Indian Express, said that traditional media invests thousands of crores to collect, verify and disseminate news, but Google uses this content and earns a lot of money through advertising revenues. “This is depriving the traditional media of its revenue share,” he said.

The Rajya Sabha MP said that India had an advantage of being the country with the second-highest internet users in the world. However, the tech giants have argued against revenue sharing on the ground that newspapers can reach much larger audiences because of Google and Facebook. But this increase in readers hasn’t translated into increase in ad revenue for media organisations, he said.

He noted how Facebook initially blocked news content in retaliation to Australia’s bargaining code, but had to “surrender and come to the negotiation table“. “They tried but could not succeed. They had to surrender and come to the negotiation table. The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken to leaders of India, UK and Canada. All democratic countries should study Australia’s experience,” he said.

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