February 15, 2023
JAKARTA – Indonesian media players are pressing for the long-awaited media sustainability bill to include more responsibilities for big-tech platforms such as transparency in ads revenue-sharing and algorithm tweaks, which are currently absent from the draft already prepared by the government.
Currently, there are two competing drafts being discussed, one prepared by the Communications and Information Ministry and the other by members of the Press Council together with media associations, both of which were submitted to the State Secretariat in late January.
A seven-page ministry draft seen by The Jakarta Post only comprises “agreements on remuneration or other forms” of compensation and was considered by many to be “too simplified”, whereas the media community expects a “clearer legal umbrella”.
The industry-forwarded proposal seen by the Post, meanwhile, stipulates sharing of advertising revenue and algorithm transparency, among other reforms on top of a mere remuneration arrangement.
The ministry’s draft said negotiations between media and tech firms would be mediated by the council, but no specific mechanism was outlined.
Meanwhile, the industry’s draft mentioned platforms could make a blanket initial price offering, which if rejected by news outlets could be continued with negotiations up to a dispute settlement involving an independent third party to ensure there would be a binding result regardless of the outcome.
Agus Sudibyo, former Press Council member, who was involved in formulating the industry’s proposal, said the difference between the two drafts was caused by the government’s assumption that the negotiation between local media companies and digital platforms would only relate to the economic value of news.
Meanwhile, local publishers also expected to get more transparency in advertising revenue sharing and users’ behavior data, Agus said.
“Aside from that, those digital platforms should ensure that their algorithm is compatible with journalistic diversity and local value in the country,” Agus told the Post on Monday.
Wenseslaus “Wens” Manggut, chairman of Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI), said this transparency was needed to help grow a better media ecosystem, envisioned by the news community.
Many websites spreading hoaxes and hateful speech had been gaining readers thanks to digital platforms, he said. Thus, tech firms have a responsibility to “lock” distribution of such contents to safeguard the quality preserved by the industry.
“There must be a tool that can prevent dangerous contents from being indexed, for example in the search engine,” Wens told the Post on Monday.
According to a separate document seen by the Post, the industry’s proposal is backed by the leadership of AMSI and other associations such as the union of press firms (SPS) as well as those of private radio and television.
The proposed regulation aims to address publishers’ longstanding complaints that they are losing revenue to online platforms, as tech giants were benefiting from using news content in search results or other features without proper compensation.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reiterated the urgency for a regulation that supports media sustainability during the National Press Day last Thursday as the news industry “was not doing so well” given 60 percent of the country’s advertising market is dominated by Big Tech.
Jokowi asked for both the ministry and the industry to compromise on the two competing drafts and finalize a final one within a month. Both gave their assurance the deliberation would be done on time.
Usman Kansong, the ministry’s director general of information and public communication, said the draft prepared by his office was only part of the initiative.
Asked about the seven-page draft that has far less detail, he stressed that the deliberation was still ongoing and was still open for both reductions and additions to the ongoing proposal prepared by the ministry.
He reiterated that no proposal would be directly signed by the President without going through the process, which includes dialogue with other ministries and stakeholders, starting on this Wednesday.
“We also ask for suggestions from digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook,” Usman told the Post on Friday.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) chairman, Sasmito Madrim urged the government and media firms not to rush the process, arguing the result may be counterproductive to the wishes of the press community.
“One month is not enough as we have not had enough discussion,” Sasmito said on Friday.
Sasmito backed the planned regulation as an effort to raise the standards of high-quality journalism in the industry by making sets of rules on digital platforms, but he preferred it to take form as the highest level of law (UU) instead of a presidential regulation.
“Law will have a more binding sanction,” he said.
Devi Ariyani, executive director at Indonesia Services Dialogue (ISD) Council, which represents the voices of the services sector, including the digital-technology industry with tech-giants Meta and Google among its members, questioned the necessity of the formal regulation.
She said it should have been left with a business-to-business (B2B) agreement and the government could position itself as a facilitator instead of a regulator in this case.
“A detailed discussion up to ad-revenue sharing and more is better to be discussed in a business agreement between media companies and digital platforms,” she told the Post on Friday.
Devi also opined that both media firms and the government should focus on the main issue of building high-quality journalism, instead of diverting the discussion to commercial aspects.
Meta and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.