Congressman Cicilline to Introduce Anti-Trust Safe Harbor Bill

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Lindsey Loving
Communications Manager

February 26, 2018

Congressman David Cicilline to Introduce Anti-Trust Safe Harbor Bill for Newspaper Companies

Bill Would Allow Newspapers to Collectively Negotiate with Facebook, Google on Content Monetization

Arlington, Va. – Today, the News Media Alliance – representing almost 2,000 news organizations – again called on Congress to allow publishers to negotiate collectively with dominant online platforms, namely Facebook and Google.

In an Op-Ed published today in The Wall Street Journal, Alliance President & CEO David Chavern announced that Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee, is expected to introduce a bill soon that would amend anti-trust laws to incorporate a safe harbor, allowing news publishers to negotiate with the big tech platforms, and therefore flowing needed ad dollars back to the deserving parties; the news publishers.

Since Chavern’s Op-Ed on the same topic in July 2017, he said the problems with tech platforms’ control over the news industry have gotten worse, pointing to Facebook and Google’s commandeering of important ad revenue. “The problem is that the money generated by news audiences is flowing primarily to Google and Facebook, and not to the reporters and publishers who produce excellent journalism,” stated Chavern.

Currently the Duopoly is capturing 83 percent of all digital ad revenue growth and 73 percent of total U.S. digital advertising. This loss being suffered by news publishers threatens their very existence. Without trusted news sources, the stream of information accessed by consumers, especially in small communities, could become dominated by fake news.

Governments around the world – including the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel and South Korea, among others – are taking steps to address the issue. “Facebook and Google have become the primary and de facto regulators of the news business, and governments around the world are starting to recognize the danger,” stated Chavern. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), on the other hand, did not act on a 2013 inquiry into Google and Facebook’s anti-competitive practices, and the Duopoly have gone on to make numerous anti-competitive acquisitions of other large social media platforms and apps that have gone through unchecked.

Chavern reiterated that the News Media Alliance believes the solution to this problem is to provide a safe harbor for newspapers in the anti-trust laws to allow them the ability to come together to negotiate with the platforms on their overall behalf. “The least the government can do is get out of the way and let publishers protect themselves and their readers,” said Chavern.

The Alliance applauds Congressman Cicilline for his proactive stance. “This is a huge step in the right direction,” stated Chavern. “We hope the Bill will be seriously considered and that this time, the government takes the necessary action to restore fairness to the competitive landscape.”


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