×

Bill Unveiled to Give Local News Outlets More Power to Counter Google, Facebook

WASHINGTON — A top House Democrat and Republican introduced legislation on Wednesday designed to give local news publishers a boost in negotiating with much larger tech platforms like Google and Facebook.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would provide a “safe harbor” for digital news outlets and allow them to collectively negotiate terms over their distribution of content by dominant platforms.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, are co-sponsors on the bill.

David Chavern, the president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, which represents print and digital news outlets, said the bipartisan support for the legislation was significant. Last year, when Cicilline introduced a similar bill, it didn’t go anywhere.

“It is becoming much clearer how at risk local news publishing is,” Chavern said, adding that lawmakers have concerns about the impact that the decline in local journalism has on their communities and how they will communicate with the constituents. Another worry is that if a local news publisher goes away, what type of information source will fill that void?

According to the News Media Alliance, Facebook and Google are drawing about 90% of all digital ad revenue and 60% of total U.S. digital advertising.

Popular on Variety

The bill would give news publishers a 48-month “safe harbor” to coordinate if it relates to news, is non-discriminatory to other news publishers, benefits the entire industry, and is not being used for purposes other than setting terms with distributors.

“The free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Journalists keep the public informed, root out corruption, and hold the powerful accountable,” Cicilline said in a statement. “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.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts is predicted to drop 9% from 2016 to 2026.

Collins said the legislation will be “opening the door for community newspapers to more fairly negotiate with large tech platforms that are operating in an increasingly anticompetitive space.”

NetChoice, an association of commerce businesses that includes Google and Facebook, signaled their potential opposition.

“The bill empowers big media to circumvent antitrust laws and collude to grow their power,” said Carl Szabo, the organization’s VP and general counsel.

They were joined by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. Its president, David Williams, said companies “should get equal treatment under the law, instead of big media companies enjoying lucrative exemption from antitrust laws.”

More Politics

  • Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie

    Democrats Debate: Warren and Sanders Talk Women and Electability

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders sparred on Tuesday night over the question of electability, as Sanders denied having said that a woman could not win the presidency. Warren said on Monday that Sanders had told her in December 2018 that a woman could not be elected — while Sanders said the claim was “ludicrous.” [...]

  • Cory Booker

    Cory Booker Drops Out of Presidential Race

    Sen. Cory Booker announced Monday morning that he is dropping out of the presidential race, with three weeks to go before the Iowa caucus. In a message to supporters, Booker cited fundraising struggles and his failure to make the debate stage, and said he no longer sees a path to victory. “Our campaign has reached [...]

  • Ari Shapiro

    'All Things Considered' Host Ari Shapiro Signs With CAA (EXCLUSIVE)

    “All Things Considered” host Ari Shapiro has signed with CAA, Variety has learned. Before serving as one of the hosts of NPR’s award-winning afternoon news magazine program, Shapiro was NPR’s White House and international correspondent based in London. He was the first NPR reporter promoted to correspondent before the age of 30. “Many of the [...]

  • Jackie Lacey and George Gascon

    Los Angeles D.A. Challenger Questions Timing of Weinstein Rape Charges

    The leading challenger in the race for Los Angeles County district attorney has questioned the timing of rape charges against Harvey Weinstein, saying it “smacks of politics.” District Attorney Jackie Lacey is running for a third term in the March 3 primary election. On Monday, she held a press conference to announce four charges against [...]

  • Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to 'Step Back as Senior Members of Royal Family'

    Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced they are “stepping back as senior members of the Royal Family.” In an Instagram post, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex explained that they made the decision to work towards “becoming financially independent” and to raise their son between the United States and the United Kingdom. Speculation is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content