Australia’s bold move to force tech giants to start paying for news appears to be reigniting US efforts to hold Google and Facebook to account for the grim state of the local news industry.
Momentum is building for a new version of a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2019 that would allow US news publishers to come together to negotiate payments from tech giants that link to their news content. .
The House Judiciary Committee tentatively scheduled a hearing for the Journalism Protection and Competition Act for March 12, the sources said.
As before, the bill would give news publishers a “safe harbor” to collectively bargain for payment without conflicting with antitrust laws that normally prohibit group price discussions between competitors. But the new version will invite local television news stations to join the talks, not just newspapers, according to a source close to the situation.
Google and Facebook have long been criticized for linking content created by outside publishers, including the news organization, while keeping most of the ad revenue generated by that content. This year, more than 50 percent of all digital advertising revenue in the US will flow to the two social media giants, the eMarketer projects.
Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), chair of the House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee, will co-sponsor the updated bill with Representative Ken Buck (R-CO), the highest-ranking minority member on the subcommittee, in a rare sample of bipartisanship.
“Local journalism plays such an important role in keeping the American people informed, but many of our community newspapers have been crushed by the threat of big technology,” Rep. Buck said in a statement to Media Ink. “This bipartisan bill will send a lifeline to local news organizations struggling to survive because Google and Facebook have decimated the news industry.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) are expected to lead a similar bill in the Senate.
The bill, which never made it out of committee in the last session, appears to be taking on new life at Down Under, which has ordered social media giants to negotiate payment deals to link content created by local news publishers.
If local news publishers and tech giants fail to reach a collective bargaining agreement, the new Australian law requires both parties to undergo binding arbitration.
Facebook and Google have been trying to avoid legislative efforts to govern how publishers are compensated. Google, for example, has been hatching deals with publishers in a piecemeal fashion around the world. He recently signed a three-year contract to pay for news stories generated by News Corp., owner of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
“We have committed $ 600 million since 2018 to support the news industry and we plan at least $ 1 billion more over the next three years,” Facebook said in a statement. “Publishers choose to share and make their stories available on Facebook because they derive value from doing so. We will continue to work with editors, leaders and other interested parties on proposals that benefit the news and its readers. “
But these efforts have done little to save the Fourth Estate. More than 300 newspapers have closed in the past two years, creating “news deserts” in many communities, according to a study by the School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina. Since 2004, the United States has lost nearly 1,800 articles, including more than 60 newspapers and 1,700 weeklies, according to the study.
More than 30,000 media jobs were lost in 2020 due to the pandemic, according to the placement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, even surpassing the regrettable job losses in the 2008 recession.
That is why the News Media Alliance, a trade group that includes major newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, owned by News Corp, supports the inclusion of local television in the draft. law.
The NMA plans to “come up with ideas for negotiation structures and dispute resolution mechanisms” at the March 12 hearing, the group’s executive director David Chavern said.