In a significant move, the Centre has convened a high-powered inter-ministerial meeting to address growing concerns over the imbalances in bargaining power between major technology companies and digital news publishers. 

This meeting, to be Chaired by the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, signifies a critical step towards ensuring a fair and competitive digital marketplace, sources said.

Wednesday’s meeting includes key government officials such as the Secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs, the Chairperson of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the Secretaries from the Departments of Consumer Affairs, Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Electronics and Information Technology, Corporate Affairs, and Legal Affairs. 

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This diverse group underscores the government’s recognition of the multifaceted nature of the issues at hand and the need for a holistic approach, sources said. The main agenda revolves around the urgent need for a dedicated legal framework to address the alleged unfair competition practices between digital news publishers and big technology companies.

While the proposed Digital Competition Law is under deliberation by a committee constituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, there is growing consensus on the necessity for a separate and specific legal mechanism to safeguard the interests of digital media entities.

Small and medium-sized digital news publishers are reportedly struggling to compete against the overwhelming influence of tech giants, who dominate advertising revenues and content distribution channels. The current revenue-sharing models are heavily skewed in favour of big tech companies, leaving digital news publishers with a disproportionate share of ad revenues.

Moreover, tech companies control significant aspects of content distribution, which affects the visibility and reach of news publishers’ content, thereby impacting their viability and sustainability. Additionally, there are concerns regarding data privacy and the use of personal data collected by tech companies, which may further disadvantage news publishers.

In response to these challenges, the government is considering multiple strategies, including formulating a new legal framework specifically targeting digital media to complement the broader Digital Competition Law. Policies to ensure a fair distribution of advertising revenues between tech companies and news publishers are being contemplated. 

The Centre is also looking at establishing stronger regulatory mechanisms to oversee the interactions between digital news publishers and tech companies, as well as mandating greater transparency in the algorithms and data use policies of tech companies to ensure a level playing field.

“This initiative reflects our commitment to fostering a fair, competitive, and transparent digital media ecosystem. By addressing these power imbalances, we aim to protect the integrity and sustainability of digital news publishing in India”, official source said. 

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