Reps. Buck, Cicilline Fight to Save News Organizations Crushed by Big Tech
March 10, 2021
Introduction of Journalism Competition and Preservation Act comes as Antitrust Subcommittee plans to host Friday hearing on saving free, diverse press.
WASHINGTON – Today, House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-Colo.) announced the introduction of the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, legislation that will allow small news outlets to band together to negotiate with large online platforms like Google and Facebook.
“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,” Ranking Member Buck said. “This bipartisan bill is an important start to remedying the results of Google, Facebook, and other’s anticompetitive conduct toward local news outlets, conservative media, and other news organizations.”
“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,” Chairman Cicilline, who has introduced the bill in each of the last two Congresses, 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.”
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 trustworthy sources of news online. Importantly, the safe harbor is narrowly tailored to ensure that coordination by news publishers is only in the interest of promoting trust and quality journalism.
The bill introduced today only allows coordination by news publishers if it (1) 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.
Nearly 90 percent of Americans now get news while on a smartphone, computer, or tablet, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, dwarfing the number of Americans who get news via television, radio, or print media. Facebook and Google now account for the vast majority of online referrals to news sources, with the two companies also enjoying control of a majority of the online advertising market. This digital ad duopoly has directly contributed to layoffs and consolidation in the news industry, particularly for local news.
Last year, members of the Antitrust Subcommittee held an investigation into the state of competition in the digital marketplace, and the problems created by the dominance of large firms holding monopoly power, including Google and Facebook. In conclusion of this investigation, Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO), released a report entitled The Third Way, which concurred with the findings of the Majority Staff Report and included a discussion of potential remedies. A copy of this report is available here.
On Friday, the Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine proposals for Congress to help small publishers compete in the digital marketplace.