Journalism Competition and Preservation Act Introduced in Congress

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WASHINGTON—A bipartisan group of House and Senate members introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act on March 10, which would enable small news outlets to collectively negotiate with online platforms, like Google and Facebook, for use of their stories.

The bill was brought forth by House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), House Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) and Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The legislation follows a bipartisan investigation into the online marketplace, which found that big tech companies use practices that ultimately harm local news providers, including broadcasters.

According to Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans get news while using a smartphone, computer or tablet, with Facebook and Google accounting for a majority of online referrals for news sources and a majority of the online advertising market. This “digital ad duoply” has contributed to layoffs and consolidation in the news industry, especially for local new outlets, the announcement noted. 

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will establish a temporary, 48-month safe harbor that allows small news publishers to negotiate collectively with online platforms to protect Americans’ access to sources of online news. Coordination is only allowed if 1) it directly relates to the quality, accuracy, attribution or branding, or interoperability of news; 2) benefits the entire industry, rather than just a few publishers, and is non-discriminatory to other news publishers; and 3) is directly related to and reasonably necessary for these negotiations, instead of being used for other purposes.

“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,” said Cicilline, who has introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in each of the last two Congresses. “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.”

NAB, who has argued that large online companies are putting broadcasters at a disadvantage for ads, welcomed the proposed legislation.

“NAB commends Reps. David Cicilline and Ken Buck, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and John Kennedy and their bipartisan cosponsors for reintroducing legislation allowing news publishers such as local broadcasters to collectively negotiate the terms on which their content may be distributed online,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith in a statement. “For too long, a handful of dominant tech platforms have unilaterally set policies impeding media outlets’ ability to reach audiences, attract advertisers and monetize their news content. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would afford news producers the ability to negotiate a fair return for their local journalism that serves America's communities. We look forward to working with stakeholders and members of Congress on passing this legislation into law.”

The House Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “Reviving Competition, Part 2: Saving the Free and Diverse Press,” on Friday, March 12. Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group, is scheduled to testify on behalf of local TV and radio broadcasters.