(Chiang Mai, Thailand) — Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) hosted an impactful session, ‘Challenging Big Tech in the Newsroom’, at the Digital Rights Asia-Pacific Assembly (DRAPAC23) on May 23, 2023. The session examined the dominance of Big Tech platforms such as Meta and Google over digital newsrooms in Pakistan, where majority of digital ad revenue is usurped by these tech corporations.
Led by MMfD’s co-founder and director Asad Baig, the session featured prominent names from Pakistan’s news media industry. The panelists included Mahim Maher, editor at Aaj.tv; Jahanzaib Haque, chief digital strategist at Dawn.com; Sadaf Khan, co-founder at MMfD; and Ayesha Khalid, former broadcast journalist and now communications manager at MMfD.
The session examined leading digital platforms’ stranglehold over newsrooms in a South Asian country like Pakistan, which lacks both political economy and the market power to regulate Big Tech. It was based on MMfD’s research into Pakistan’s media economy landscape, which highlights that Google and Meta pocket nearly 85% of digital ad revenue generated by newsrooms. The dialogue analysed how the situation is further exacerbated due to the lack of diversification of revenue streams and monetisation of disinformation across Big Tech platforms.
Among the primary highlights of the session was the Pakistan Digital Editors Alliance (PDEA), a recently launched initiative aimed at making newsrooms more economically sound and sustainable in the country. Maher and Haque, who are both part of the PDEA, highlighted its objectives and the need for diversity in Pakistani newsrooms in terms of economic models and sustainable revenue streams.
Khalid, on the other hand, spoke at length regarding the role of Big Tech platforms in making disinformation profitable, citing the example of the Aurat March disinformation campaigns. Khan shed light on the overall situation for corporate accountability in the South Asian region and pointed out key factors that enable tech corporations to get away with their negligence in emerging markets.
The research publications cited in the discussion are available here: