Big Tech ‘Monopoly’ Harms News Industry, Congress Finds

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WASHINGTON—A bipartisan investigation into the online marketplace orchestrated by the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee has released a report that finds that big tech companies like Facebook and Google have created a monopoly that has weakened both journalism and our democracy.

According to the report, tech companies use their platforms—where they share news articles—to collect data on news outlets’ readers. They in turn allow advertisers to use this data to target new outlets’ readers, which results in a decrease in value of the ad space on news websites.

This impact has reached local TV and radio broadcasters as well, according to NAB, putting them at a competitive disadvantage for advertising revenue and impeding their ability to effectively monetize their own content online. It also negatively impacts the ability news broadcasters have to invest in, produce and deliver local news and information.

The Antitrust Subcommittee report was led by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.)

“NAB thanks Chairman Cicilline and the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee for its important investigation into the dominant competitive power of digital technology platforms,” said Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO. “We applaud the Subcommittee for examining the challenges this presents to local media outlets, including radio and TV broadcasters, as they compete online for advertisers and audiences, and the impact of the future of local journalism. America’s broadcasters are committed to working with the Subcommittee and Congress on bipartisan solutions that level the playing field and preserve local journalism.”

In addition to outlining the ways that tech giants are harming local journalism, the Subcommittee’s report also presents possible legislative action to respond to these problems, something that “would help reset the competitive landscape and restore fairness to the online marketplace,” said Laura Bassett, former senior politics reporter for HuffPost and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project.

Among some of these reforms are the elimination of the platforms’ conflicts of interest, strengthening antitrust laws and interoperability and nondiscrimination rules, said Open Markets Institute’s Director of Enforcement Strategy Sally Hubbard. “At this turning point for our nation, Congress must act immediately, decisively and with courage,” she said.

The complete House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee report is available online