By India Today Web Desk: Public interest journalism can be saved when the big digital platforms and news media organizations come together and join hands. This was the undercurrent as an eclectic panel presented their views during a webinar on ‘Decoding the Publisher-Platform Relationship’ on Friday. The discussion was part of the DNPA (Digital News Publishers Association) Dialogues presented by e4m.
The dialogue revolved around how an ideal relationship can be forged between news publishers and big tech platforms in rebuilding the business of journalism. The panelists also deliberated on solutions to bring about a consensus between digital platforms and news organizations. Speakers underlined the role of competition regulators in ironing out differences between tech companies and news publishers on matters of revenue-sharing and transparency. They discussed ways to bring about fairness in publisher-platform relationship.
The intricacies of Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, which was rolled out last year, were also highlighted.
DISCUSSION ON CODE
Rodney Sims, Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, said that Google and Facebook, with their massive market power, were earlier using the content of media business without paying for it. On the other hand, each media entity needed to be on Google and Facebook for their survival. So, a Code was brought about on how the big tech players needed to behave.
Sims, who was instrumental in helping the Code, pointed out that threat of arbitration and concrete mechanisms were required to bring the Big Tech players to the negotiating table, adding the Code is a great way to getting paid equitably from social media platforms for displaying journalistic content they publish.
India’s digital news publishers can learn from Australia and Canada’s news media bargaining codes as they seek fairness in how Big Tech platforms collaborate with them, he added.
Peter Lewis, Director, The Australia Institute, underlined that it shouldn’t be seen just as a Code, but a part of a substantial piece of public policy. “When we are talking about digital platform, we are not talking about tech companies, but powerful marketing monopolies.” He added the Code is meant to regulate and limit the growing power of digital platform. “When we talk about the Code, we shouldn’t think about it only as a transaction but as a good policy too.”
Emma McDonald, Senior Policy Advisor, Minderoo Foundation, spoke on why collective will and willingness between both the big digital players and news organizations to support the Code is super important.
“Dealing with Google and Facebook was stressful and combative at times, as they didn’t want to come to the table. But later they did when media companies came together to demand legislation with help from the government.”
Paul Thomas, Managing Director, Star News Group Pty Ltd, underscored the need to enable news publishers to work collectively to negotiate with the Big Tech players. If the news organizations don’t come under one common roof, the digital players will find it impossible to deal with them separately, he said.
James Messe, Senior Lecturer, RMIT University, reflected on the Australian experience relating to the Code and offered his perspective on arbitration mechanisms and complexities of market negotiations. He also spoke on how Canada is treading the path.
“Canada is providing the policy language needed, especially in terms of transparency of the deals that should be struck between the platforms and publishers.”
“My advice to India is, copy the Australian Code, and see the variation in Canada. You’ve got models that could be adopted,” Sims said.
Thomas said, “The challenge is how we monetize ourselves on digital platforms to sustain the news media industry.”
McDonald said the Code in Australia has delivered its outcome, and will go a long way in protecting journalism and democratic values. All media companies around the world must learn from the Australian experience to save journalism, she added. McDonald added the interests of small and big media players must be brought together on matters concerning Big Tech. When there is collective power, it becomes easy to secure deals with the big ones, she emphasized.
Lewis said, “What the Code has done is that it changed the way news is now being covered. We no longer see just two or three staff filling up the pages and relying on media releases. We now have more journalists at work. There’s been a change in the mood in terms of journalism.”
Thomas added news organizations should stick together and understand the importance of a stronger voice as a joint entity. They should think about solutions collectively and then only journalism would be saved.
“Bargaining would help only when there is legislative power,” Lewis remarked. He and McDonald were of the view that coordination of all departments is necessary and demarcations must go. McDoanld said when India formulates a policy to regulate the Big Tech players, it might face challenges like Australia and Canada, but following the Code can offer a remedy.
Tanmay Maheshwari, Managing Director, Amar Ujala Ltd, and chairman of DNPA, said that DNPA is committed to building an ecosystem where organized digital news media not only shines but also thrives. “A strong digital media ecosystem is a fundamental element to nation-building,” he underlined. “We know that we have to coexist with Big Tech, but at the same time, we can’t ignore some of the limitations in the digital news ecosystem. Hence, the DNPA Dialogues,” Maheshwari said.
Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, BW & Exchange4media, said dialogues can create a roadmap for digital news ecosystem and how it can be shaped. Big Tech players and news publishers should have a shared future and factor in all realities, he pointed out.
Pawan Agarwal, Deputy Managing Director, DB Corp Ltd, put forth many interesting questions in front of the panelists and added more zing and meaning to the session.
Ruhail Amin, Senior Editor, exchange4media, said the new focus should be on direct dialogues between the digital platforms and news organizations. McDonald summed it up by saying, “It’s (the Australian Code) the start of the conversation to protect journalism, not the end.”