Major tech companies, under increasing scrutiny for a host of issues in Washington, boosted their spending on lobbying in 2017, while many of the content companies often at odds with Silicon Valley kept their budgets largely the same.
The influence spending is typically a function of pending issues before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and internet companies faced a host of legislation on privacy, data security, child online sex trafficking, and web ad disclosure. Last fall, representatives from Twitter, Google, and Facebook testified before three congressional committees on the use of their platforms by Russian sources to try to influence U.S. public opinion.
According to recently released expenditure forms filed with Congress, Google spent $18 million on lobbying in 2017, compared to $15.4 million a year earlier. Facebook spent $11.6 million, versus $8.7 million the previous year. Twitter’s spending actually went down, but it was just a fraction of other internet giants: $561,000 in 2017 vs. $680,000 in 2016.
Amazon also increased its spending on lobbying, shelling out $12.8 million last year vs. $11 million in 2016. Apple raised its lobbying spending to $7.1 million, from $4.6 million the previous year. Netflix spent the same amount — $800,000 — in both years.
AT&T, which is in the midst of a court battle with the Justice Department over its plans to merge with Time Warner, spent $16.8 million on lobbying, a slight increase from $16.4 million in 2016.
Among media companies, Comcast boosted its spending, to $15.32 million, from $14.31 a year earlier, with issues like net neutrality and tax reform on the top of the agenda.
But other media companies’ lobbying spending was flat or even decreased. One of the bigger recent policy debates took place in 2016, when the FCC proposed a new rule that would have “opened up” the cable set-top box, allowing manufacturers to create their own for sale to the consumer. Studios and cable companies fought the idea, and pressed members of Congress to try to stop it. The proposal ultimately was sidelined.
CBS: $4.5 million, unchanged from a year earlier.
Viacom: $4.1 million, from $4 million a year earlier.
21st Century Fox: $3.5 million, from $5.3 million a year earlier.
Walt Disney Co.: $3.2 million, from $4.2 million a year earlier.
Time Warner: $2.93 million, from $2.84 a year earlier.
iHeartMedia: $4.7 million, from $4.4 million a year earlier.
Among media trade associations, the National Association of Broadcasters was the largest spender, shelling out $15.6 million in 2017, compared to $16.3 million a year earlier.
Other trade groups:
NCTA – The Internet & Television Association: $12.8 million in 2017, compared to $13.3 million in 2016.
The Recording Industry Association of America: $4.8 million, compared to $4.4 million a year earlier.
MPAA: $2.5 million, compared to $2.6 million a year earlier.