Congressional efforts to support US media in negotiations with Big Tech have supporters who hope this is the third time the charm has been achieved.
The bill, the Law on the Protection of the Journalism Competition, was introduced in March for the third time since 2018. The likelihood of its passage could be improved in a Democrat-led Congress working to review antitrust laws.
Australia և Other countries have begun to put in place mechanisms to support news publishers against Facebook և Google, which dominates online advertising. Publishers claim that Big Tech squeezes media outlets out of digital advertising revenue and puts undue control over who can see their journalism.
The bill offers publishers four years of antitrust exemption so they can negotiate with a group of “dominant online platforms”. Facebook և Google makes most of the online advertising dollars in the US The aim of the measure is to give publishers better leverage with technology companies, while allowing only a system that benefits the media industry as a whole against the backdrop of a long decline in local news.
Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilin, one of the sponsors of the bill, prepared remarks for the hearings earlier this month that the legislation would give news publishers “even a playing field” to make deals with major tech platforms. The news industry is battling declining revenue, cutting newsrooms, and failed publications, which Siciline and others call a threat to democracy, while Google and Facebook are collecting billions in revenue.
“This bill is a way of life support, not a response to the long-term health of the media,” he said.
Although the bill has Republican sponsors in both the House and Senate, some Republicans made reservations during the same hearings. Ohio Republican Jim Jim Jordan’s son said he was concerned about giving more power to large media companies that would harden Conservative opinion. Republicans often claim without evidence that technology companies censor conservatives and the right-wing media.
The journalists’ union, News Guild, says the bill will work best with additional job support provisions. It has long objected to the consolidation of media outlets, criticizing many publishers for blocking trade unions, cutting jobs for media groups, particularly hedge funds, and private equity networks.
News Guild President Jon von Schlaus would like the law to require publishers to spend 60 percent of their bargaining power to hire more journalists, as well as to support small-scale news outlets in the “desert of news” where newspapers are folded. Instead of worrying about it, it can spend it on things like dividends, repurchasing stocks, squeezing higher profit margins.
Microsoft, whose chairman testified at the hearing, supports the bill. Google և Facebook declined to comment on the legislation on Friday.
In February, however, Facebook took an emergency step by banning Australian news from its platform, protesting against a law that would require publishers to negotiate compensation for their use of news content. Facebook lifted the ban when the government agreed to change the law. At the same time, Microsoft has partnered with European publishers to support such measures under Australian law in Europe.
Over the past few years, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple have all come to the attention of Congress: regulators. The Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Attorney Generals are suing Internet giants for various antitrust violations, some of which are related to publishers’ problems.