India can learn from Australia and Canada on digital news ecosystem: Rodney Sims at DNPA Dialogue

The inaugural DNPA Dialogues sparked discussions about Big Tech’s antitrust practices and potential safeguard mechanisms for news publishers. In India and many other parts of the world, digital arms of traditional news organizations have questioned Big Tech’s anti-trust monopolistic practices. The DNPA Dialogues gave an opportunity for Indian publishers to learn and understand firsthand from the experiences of publishers in other countries, as well as how governments and legislatures.

In order to seek fairness in how Big Tech platforms work with them, Rodney Sims, a former Australian anti-trust stalwart and the keynote speaker at India’s first-of-its-kind roundtable on emerging changes in Big Tech and Digital Media relationships, hosted by the Digital News Publishers Association, urged India’s digital news publishers to take a leaf out of Australia and Canada’s news media bargaining codes.

“In Australia, the News Media Bargaining Code is law, it sits there. So now, Facebook and Google don’t want to be designated under the Code. To avoid designations, they started going out and doing a lot of deals with news publishers. So, the objective of the Code was not to ensure legislation takes effect, to get deals done,” Sims said.

Sims played a key role in getting the Code passed in 2021, which made it simpler for Australian news organizations to negotiate contracts with tech companies. “A crucial point is that, in the event that negotiations failed, the law provided for the possibility of arbitration. Arbitration was vitally important. Its goal was to bring the parties together,” Sims added.

Sims spoke about the takeaway for India. “In Canada, one large improvement is that they would possibly publish the information about the deals in aggregate for the public to see. That apart, legislation is lined up for the Congress in the US. And in the UK, they’re working on general legislation. So, my advice to India is, copy the Australian Code, and see the variation in Canada. You’ve got models that could be adopted.”

He came to the conclusion that there should be legislation and other tangible mechanisms in place to force technology platforms to bargain with news publishers and pay them fairly for using the content they publish.

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