Regulating dependency: The political stakes of online platforms’ deals with French publishers
At a time when the news industry is struggling to cope with the dominance of the advertising market by large platforms, along with recent crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, commercial deals and regulatory initiatives are becoming increasingly common. While there is ample space for regulatory interventions seeking to level the playing field between news industry stakeholders and platforms, we are concerned these might further cement the dependency of the former on the latter through co-regulatory frameworks that epitomize the capture of vital infrastructures by platforms. This article examines the three-year negotiation of French news publishers with Google and Meta, which concluded with four framework agreements being signed. For our analysis, we first look at the historical trajectory of how these deals were made possible, using secondary sources such as leaks, press releases and the French Competition Authority’s rulings; we then discuss their details and implications. We trace Google’s attempt to capture news media in France and discuss the asymmetrical power it has exercised over the news industry, and how the subsequent deals with Meta were affected. Finally, our case study shows that these frameworks are not sufficient to tackle systemic imbalances – despite their good intentions – because they fail to challenge the concentration of power by a handful of oligopolistic private companies and, thus, effectively leave it up to them and the free market’s idiosyncrasies to decide how they are implemented.
Keywordsplatformization, copyright, related rights, Google News, Facebook News, Meta Journalism Project
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