Members of both parties in Congress will reintroduce legislation Wednesday that will help news organizations to band together to negotiate with large online platforms such as Google and Facebook for better compensation for their content.
House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and ranking member Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, announced the introduction of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act on Wednesday. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
"One of the bedrock values of our country is a free press, but we have seen thousands of news organizations crushed by the monopolistic power of Big Tech," Buck said.
The bill would allow publishers to skirt antitrust law temporarily to allow them to coordinate, in effect, against Big Tech in negotiations for better compensation for online content created.
Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Google built their empires in part through the distribution of news content and now are being accused of not sharing their advertising profits fairly with news publishers. There is bipartisan agreement that the two companies, who control a majority of the online advertising market, have contributed to layoffs and consolidation in the news industry, particularly among local news organizations.
U.S. representatives hope to rescue the ailing American news industry, which Pew Research data shows has lost half of its employees since 2008 and has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 90% of Americans access their news through social media platforms, according to a Pew survey.
The legislation will not be as aggressive as a similar new law created in Australia that requires platforms to negotiate with publishers and has the government appoint an arbitrator to decide on the final price if a deal is not struck. Facebook temporarily blocked Australian news publishers and users from viewing or sharing any news content in response to the measure.
The U.S. bill only creates the environment for negotiations to occur, but the government will not play a role in talks. The bill will also allow any news organization to reap the benefits of deals agreed upon by their counterparts.
Cicilline, who has introduced a similar version of the bill in each of the last two Congresses, said the legislation is key to enabling a free press and helping small, local news outlets in particular.
"A strong, diverse, free press is critical for any successful democracy. Access to trustworthy local journalism helps inform the public, hold powerful people accountable, and root out corruption," Cicilline said.
"This bill will give hardworking local reporters and publishers the helping hand they need right now, so they can continue to do their important work," he added.
On Friday, the antitrust subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine proposals for Congress to help small publishers compete in the digital marketplace.
Original Location: Big Tech power targeted in bipartisan bill to aid local news