Public Policy

Bipartisan bill would clear way for newspapers to negotiate collectively with digital giants Google, Facebook

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The Democratic House Antitrust chairman and the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee have jointly introduced legislation that would give newspapers and other news publishers of online content a two-year window to collectively negotiate with Facebook and Google for better business arrangements.

U.S. Reps. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, and Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, introduced the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act” in early April.

The proposal would establish a 48-month antitrust “safe harbor” during which publishers could join together to negotiate with online platform giants.

“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,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the News Media Alliance, which has pushed for the legislation for some time.

“The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act 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,” the fact sheet says.

Facebook and Google are now capturing 90% of all new digital ad revenue, and about 60% of total U.S. digital advertising.

Cicilline said the aim of the legislation is to preserve a free press.

“The free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Journalists keep the public informed, root out corruption, and hold the powerful accountable,” Cicilline said. “This bill will provide a much-needed lifeline to local publishers who have been crushed by Google and Facebook. It’s about time we take a stand on this issue.”

Collins also emphasized the importance of community journalism to the American democracy.

“Through our bipartisan legislation, we are opening the door for community newspapers to more fairly negotiate with large tech platforms that are operating in an increasingly anti-competitive space,” Collins said. “This will help protect journalism, promote competition and allow communities to stay informed.”