A congressional effort to support US news agencies in negotiations with Big Tech has supporters hoping the third time around will be the charm.
the bill, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, was introduced in March for the third time since 2018. Its odds of success may have improved in a Democrat-led Congress working to revise antitrust laws.
Australia and other countries have started pushing mechanisms to support the news editors against Facebook and Google, which dominate online advertising. Publishers claim Big Tech is kicking news agencies out of digital ad revenue and exercising undue control over who can see their journalism.
The bill would provide a four-year antitrust exemption for publishers so that they can negotiate as a group with “dominant online platforms.” Facebook and Google get the majority of online advertising dollars in the United States.
Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island and one of the bill’s sponsors, said in remarks prepared for a hearing earlier this month that the legislation would provide news editors with a “level playing field. “to negotiate agreements with the main technological platforms. The news industry grapples with declining revenues, declining newsrooms and failing publications – which Cicillin and others call a threat to democracy – as Google and Facebook rack up billions in profits .
“This bill is a survival measure, not the answer to ensuring the long-term health of the information industry,” said the congressman.
While the bill has Republican co-sponsors in both the House and Senate, some Republicans at the same hearing expressed reservations. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, said he was concerned about giving more power to big media companies that would clamp down on Tory views. Republicans often claim without evidence that tech companies censor conservatives and right-wing media.
The News Guild, a union that represents journalists, says the bill would work better with additional provisions to support employment. He has long opposed media consolidation and criticized many publishers for hampering unionization and cutting newsroom jobs, especially at chains owned by hedge funds and private equity firms.
News Guild chairman Jon Schleuss would like legislation to force publishers to spend 60% of income earned through negotiations to hire more journalists and also support small newspapers and fund start-ups in the ‘deserts of the world’. ‘information’, from regions where newspapers have closed, fearing instead it could be spent on things like dividends, share buybacks and securing higher profit margins.
Microsoft, whose president testified at the hearing, supports the bill. Google and Facebook declined to comment on the legislation on Friday.
In February, however, Facebook took the extraordinary step of banning Australian news from its platform in protest against a law that would have required it to negotiate with publishers to compensate them for its use of news content. Facebook lifted the ban after the government agreed to change the law. Microsoft, meanwhile, has partnered with European publishers to support measures similar to Australian law in Europe.
In recent years, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have all come under intense scrutiny by Congress and regulators. The Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general are suing the the Internet giants for various violations of antitrust laws, some of which relate to publishers’ woes.