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Digital media feel threatened by Big Tech, MIB discusses revenue sharing

The ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) on Wednesday held an inter-ministerial meeting with various departments to discuss issues regarding revenue sharing between Big Tech companies and digital news publishers, according to sources.

The meeting — chaired by I&B Secretary Sanjay Jaju — invited senior officials from the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA), Competition Commission of India (CCI), ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) and departments of promotion of industry and internal trade, legal affairs and consumer affairs.

“We have only had preliminary discussion to develop an understanding of the issue at hand and whose purview these matters would fall under,” a senior official said.

The government has been approached by digital news publishers regarding abuse of dominant position by Big Tech players in ad-revenue share agreements, sources said.

The discussion comes in the backdrop of the draft digital competition Bill proposed by the MCA.

The Bill was drafted on the suggestions of an expert committee constituted to look into the need for ex ante regulations for Big Tech companies.

Favouring the ex ante regulations, the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) had said large digital enterprises indulge in non-transparent data and revenue sharing policies, search and ranking preferencing. They are into bundling, tying and collecting user data to improve their own products, allowing bidding on keywords, leading to infringement of registered trademarks, among other issues.

“CCI should have pre-factum power for checking abuse of dominant position by large digital enterprises before revenue-sharing agreements are entered into with news publishers,” DNPA had said.

Sources, however, said that the unfair competition issues between news publishers and technology companies may require a separate framework.

Taking into account numerous representations by industry associations raising serious concerns on the proposed digital competition Bill, Meity also called for a meeting with MCA and various industry associations to discuss the matter. The meeting is expected on Thursday.

Concerns have been raised by several industry representatives on the pitfalls of the proposed digital competition Bill.

According to a report by Reuters, a US lobby group, representing tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple, has asked India to rethink its proposed EU-like digital competition law. It argued that regulations against data use and preferential treatment of partners could raise user costs.

The proposed Bill requires digital companies to notify the CCI that it fulfils to qualify as a Systemically Significant Digital Enterprises (SSDE) based on the criteria set in the Bill.

Such enterprises would have to establish transparent and effective complaint handling and compliance mechanisms. They have to report and operate in a fair and transparent manner with end users and business users, according to the draft Bill.

SSDEs cannot directly or indirectly favour its own products, services, or lines of business, or those of related parties. They can’t use or rely on non-public data of business users operating on its core digital service. Business Standard

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