Moderating the publisher-platform relationship – The Hindu

What is the new Canadian bill trying to achieve? How do tech giants profit from news publishers?

What is the new Canadian bill trying to achieve? How do tech giants profit from news publishers?

The story so far: On April 5, the Canadian government tabled a bill to force internet platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for the use of their content. The logic and intent of the bill is similar to what Australia implemented last year. The development is of interest to governments around the world, some of which are thought to be considering such a law, as well as the entire media industry.

What is the idea behind?

The bill aims to regulate digital information intermediaries, according to its summary, “to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital information market and contribute to its sustainability.” The government’s website lists four expected outcomes of the legislation. They include a framework that supports “equitable commercial relations between digital platforms and media”, sustainability in the news ecosystem, maintaining the independence of the press and diversity in the news landscape. .

According to Toronto Sun, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriquez said at a press conference after introducing the bill: “Right now, the health and future of the news industry – especially local news – is in danger.” He was also quoted as saying, “We want to make sure the media and journalists are fairly compensated for their work. Now more than ever. Canadians need reliable and credible information, especially in a time of heightened mistrust and misinformation.

The Canadian bill is an acknowledgment of the imbalance in the news media industry. It’s similar to what prompted Australia to pass a law last year to force platforms to pay publishers. The genesis for this was a 2019 report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s regulator, which considered platforms such as Google and Facebook to have “substantial bargaining power compared to many news media companies. Legacy media, which has faced huge business challenges over the past two decades, was no match for the massive platforms with over a billion users that have grown and prospered in the digital age .

It is in a similar context that such a bill was tabled in Canada. public broadcaster Radio Canada in an article, said: “According to government figures, more than 450 news organizations in Canada have closed since 2008 and at least a third of jobs in Canadian journalism have disappeared during the same period. Newspaper companies have struggled to make money from their content after losing important sources of revenue, such as classifieds and newspaper subscriptions. At a time when cords are being cut, some private and public broadcasters have also struggled to monetize their airwaves and pay for local, regional and national radio and television news. The dominance over advertising that traditional media once enjoyed is over. Google and Facebook have a combined 80% share of all online ad revenue in Canada and take in a whopping $9.7 billion a year, according to government data. »

How does the Canadian bill propose to correct this imbalance?

It aims to correct the imbalance in the same way the Australian law hoped to do – by ensuring platforms negotiate business deals with news publishers. If they fail to agree on a deal and mediation fails, “a binding arbitration framework” will be put in place as a last resort.

What is the nature of the publisher-platform relationship in the digital age?

In the digital world, platforms have become the most important gateways to journalistic content produced by traditional news media. Until recently, their relationship was largely about how publishers can use tools and strategies to better utilize the reach provided by these platforms. Google and Facebook provide much of the traffic for many traditional news publishers. Platforms play a major role in news discovery. But it’s now recognized around the world that the platforms are able to squeeze a lot of the money out of this arrangement as publishers struggle. Publishers also have to deal with frequent changes to the platform’s algorithm, which comes with the real threat of suddenly losing a large number of readers.

The “money” discourse has only recently emerged, due to growing awareness in government and regulatory circles around the world of the growing control that internet platforms exert over the dissemination of information. France is another country that has forced internet platforms to enter into agreements with publishers. The enabling legislation is based on EU copyright rules which, according to one Reuters report, “allow publishers to demand a fee from online platforms broadcasting extracts from their news”.

For the past few years, Google has on its own offered a framework under the “news showcase” program to license content from publishers around the world. It is, he says, “supporting quality journalism”. Facebook had talked about a similar program last year.

How have the platforms reacted to the bill?

Citizen of Ottawa quoted Google spokeswoman Lauren Skelly as saying the company has “serious concerns about some unintended consequences that the proposed online news law will have on news in Canada and the search experience Canadians know and trust. The newspaper said Google “appears to be taking a different approach than Facebook’s parent company, Meta, in reaching out to the government.” He said: ‘Last week a Meta representative told MPs that the company had not ruled out news blocking in Canada’ about the new bill.

While Australia’s bill was being discussed, Google had threatened to shut down its search engine in that country while Facebook talked about banning news sharing in its products there. But these turned out to be empty threats. They stayed, making deals with news publishers under the new law.

After that ?

The bill is at second reading stage in the House of Commons. Whatever final form the bill takes, it is clear that there is a growing debate around the world about the need to regulate internet platforms, especially when it comes to news. The UK is reportedly considering rules to correct the imbalance in the media industry. In India, earlier this year, the Competition Commission of India, the country’s competition watchdog, ordered investigations into Google, the basis being “the imbalance of bargaining power and the refusal of a fair share of ad revenue,” as the Digital News Publishers Association alleges. , a group of the digital arms of major Indian media companies. In the process of the order, the watchdog took note of legislation in Australia and France.

THE ESSENTIAL

On April 5, the Canadian government tabled a bill to force internet platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for the use of their content.

The government’s website lists four expected outcomes of the legislation. They include a framework that supports “equitable commercial relations between digital platforms and media”, sustainability in the news ecosystem, maintaining the independence of the press and diversity in the news landscape. .

Google responded to the new bill by saying that it “is seriously concerned about some unintended consequences that the proposed online news law will have on news in Canada and on the search experience that Canadians know and in which they trust”.