Lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic is turning out to be a boon for digital media, traffic, as well as revenues of the digital news portal, are on the surge. While on the other side, the print media is facing a very hard time. 

Digital platforms demand gratitude for reaching more people for news content but ignore when it comes to sharing revenue for content that has been generated at a considerable cost. Google and Facebook do not need to invest in obtaining news, but they earn revenue in the form of advertisements through them and earn themselves trillions of dollars by paying a nominal amount for journalism.

The Center should take cognizance of such scams in the same way as Australia has forced Google and Facebook to share online advertising revenue with local media companies.

Advertisement revenue has collapsed due to COVID-19, so officials should immediately look into the problem of this apparent imbalance between digital platforms and news outlets. News outlets invest large-scale human and financial resources in newsgathering operations to publish high-quality content.

Their contents are fact-checked and are neatly edited for relevance, brevity, and style. In times of natural disasters, communal riots and health emergencies like COVID-19, journalists put themselves at serious risk and bring the right information to the citizens.

If Google and Facebook manage to ruin the newspaper industry, it will not be good news for democracy, public order or livelihood. Journalism provides an independent outlet for public interest. Apart from this, it also protects the country and citizens from the misinformation spread due to social media which creates distrust, fear, and hysteria. Digital platforms, on the one hand, are making money from news and on the other are running away from accountability for fake news and widespread misinformation.

Also Read: 'Cash on delivery' orders likely to go down post Covid-19 India 

Digital platforms with multinational presence need to be negotiated to get on the way. Early models of the Spanish and French governments to force them to revenue sharing have failed. Just like the competition regulators in France and Australia have done, India can start by ordering these digital platforms to negotiate with the news producers on the issue of compensation. Australia forced these digital platforms to share revenue but it was voluntary, so there was no significant progress in this direction and as a result, dozens of newsrooms were closed. Now Australia is going to take an immediate legal path.

Facebook and Google had earned around 70 percent (Rs 11,500 crore) of their online ad revenue from India in 2018-19. In 2022, this market will increase to Rs 28,000 crore. The Indian government will have to stop this digital colonialism where the sweat and hard work of Indians is going out of the country while the local communities and businesses are ruined.

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