News organisations in India and the world received a major shot in the arm on August 22, 2022, when US lawmakers rolled out a bill for media entities to collectively negotiate with Big Tech platforms, including Google and Facebook, for revenue sharing. The move is a significant development for India as the US hands the power to media organisations to legally and rightfully claim their fair share of the revenues.

The Indian government and the country’s news organisations have been looking to democratise digital media space. Lawmakers in the US said the revised bill — Journalism Competition and Preservation Act — “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.”

In the US, the revised bill’s earlier version was introduced in March 2021 and was strongly opposed by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice. Alphabet and Meta are members of these organisations.

Tech giants questioned about monopolistic practices in India

This comes at a time when representatives of tech giants in India are testifying before a Parliament in New Delhi about anti-competitive practices. On Tuesday, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance questioned the representatives of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Netflix about their monopolistic practices in the country.

BJP lawmaker and former Union minister, Jayant Sinha is chairing the expected deposition of tech giants before the committee, also set to question representatives from Flipkart, Ola, and Oyo. The government, led by Minister of State for Informational Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has been at the forefront of the global drive to reign in Big Tech’s monopolistic practices in terms of netizens’ rights and revenue-sharing with digital news media.

According to reports, the IT ministry will release the first-ever audit of social media platforms’ compliance with India’s IT rules and regulations on September 30, 2022. The audit will be a quarterly affair. In another development, the country is coming up with a new IT law, dubbed the Digital India Act.

The new law could include provisions to address Big Tech monopolies, redefine their obligations for competition compliances and gatekeeping rules regarding market dominance. The country’s IT ministry is examining the laws of about 20 countries, particularly the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) that were recently brought in by the EU.

The Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), a platform of the digital arms of India’s 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 — followed by a DNPA’s complaint — for alleged malpractice in sharing revenue with digital news entities.