Big Tech Threat to Local Journalism Still Exists, Congress Committed to Fixing That Problem Through JCPA

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Also published in America’s Newspapers’ e-newsletter here. 

Following the re-introduction of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (H.R. 1735 / S. 673) (JCPA) in 2021, the News/Media Alliance and its allies worked to advocate for the bill’s passage during the 117th Congress. The JCPA would allow small and local news publishers to come together to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook for fair compensation for use of their content. News publishers, magazines and broadcasters currently do not have the ability to negotiate deals on their own, as the dominant tech platforms capture the majority of U.S. digital ad revenue, leaving little to reinvest in the production of high-quality journalism.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust hosted a hearing for the JCPA in February of 2022, allowing for substantive conversation on the legislation, and garnering further interest from Congressional leaders. The Alliance and its allies followed up on this hearing by meeting with Congressional staffers and organizing grassroots outreach, resulting in over 2,000 touchpoints on Capitol Hill over the summer. These efforts led to a successful Senate Judiciary Committee markup on September 22, where the JCPA was reported favorably to the Senate floor with a committee vote of 15-7.

Policymakers are motivated to stand up for the vital public institution of journalism and push back against anticompetitive business practices. A thriving press performs a critical role in building and engaging local communities and holding government officials accountable. There is broad agreement in the U.S. – on both sides of the aisle, not only on the Hill but among members the public – that action is needed to protect local journalism. An April 2022 poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research for the News/Media Alliance found that 70 percent of Americans support Congress passing the JCPA.

In December, nine leading media and journalism organizations, including the Alliance, Americas Newspapers, National Newspaper Association, the American Economic Liberties Project, and others sent a joint letter to Congressional leaders calling on the Congress to pass the JCPA before the end of 2022. The groups underscored the importance of passing the JCPA as the best solution to ensuring news publishers are compensated fairly for use of their content by the dominant tech platforms.

Over the past few years, Australia and the European Union have witnessed the benefits of their recently enacted laws to protect journalism. The Australian model, which requires the dominant tech platforms to pay publishers for use of their original content, has prompted other countries including Canada, India and the UK to take steps towards adopting similar laws. The results in Australia have been transformative for journalism. As a result of its News Media Bargaining Code adopted in 2021, estimates suggest that the total compensation received by news publishers so far – $140 million, which translates to billions in the U.S. – would cover around 20% of the costs of Australian journalists’ salaries. In addition, Australian newspapers are recruiting more journalists, with journalism professors noting an oversupply of available positions for their students. This is despite the fact that no platform has yet been “designated” under the Code – an official determination requiring the designated platform to negotiate with eligible publishers. The mere threat of designation has resulted in successful negotiations between news publishers and the platforms and provides evidence of the value of an Australian-style model for other countries to follow.

The Alliance and its allies successfully advocated for inclusion of the JCPA in the NDAA in December, only to have it removed after Meta threatened to remove news from its platform and Republicans reversed support and demanded a “clean” bill. Threats like Meta made were attempted before the Australian government passed its Code – they were unsuccessful, and news publishers ultimately got paid. As the tech platforms compensate news publishers around the world, it demonstrates the demand and economic value for news.

In the 117th Congress, the JCPA garnered bipartisan support with 75 co-sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate. The Alliance continues to hold conversations with the JCPA’s Congressional champions, who intend to reintroduce the bill in the 118th Congress. The congressional champions are eager to move the bill, mobilized after the momentum gained at the end of last year. The abuse of dominance by the tech platforms and threat to local journalism still exists, and leaders in Congress are still committed to fixing that problem. The Alliance remains dedicated to ensuring quality journalism prevails and intend to work alongside our allies to ensure a legislative solution moves forward in this Congress.

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