Two U.S. senators are reviving a bipartisan effort to allow local news outlets to negotiate for fair compensation from large digital platforms that use their content.
Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, on Friday announced they have reintroduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. The bill aims to help local journalism survive in an era when most Americans consume news through digital platforms, the senators said.
Trib Total Media CEO Jennifer Bertetto last year testified in support of the measure before a Senate subcommittee.
Bertetto on Friday praised the bill’s reintroduction and called on lawmakers to act quickly.
“Time is of the essence to address the tremendous imbalance that favors tech giants and thwarts quality journalism produced by news organizations like TribLive,” she said.
In her February 2022 testimony, Bertetto highlighted that Google, Facebook and other dominant digital platforms don’t properly compensate local news agencies for their content. She told the subcommittee that the Trib gets about $144,000 from Google each year, which is a small amount compared to the $7 million the company needs to pay its journalists each year.
Bertetto also highlighted the need for local journalism. Without local news outlets like Trib Total Media, she said, there would be no one to provide information to local communities that rely on local journalists to get their news.
Last Congress, the legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 15-7 vote.
“As the daughter of a newspaperman, I understand firsthand the vital role that a free press plays in strengthening our democracy,” Klobuchar said in a statement after reintroducing the measure. “But local news is facing an existential crisis, from ad revenues plummeting and newsrooms across the country closing to artificial intelligence tools taking content. To preserve strong, independent journalism, news organizations must be able to negotiate on a level playing field with the online platforms that dominate news distribution and digital advertising.”
The legislation would empower eligible digital journalism providers to form joint negotiation entities to collectively negotiate with a platform over pricing and conditions under which the platform can access digital news content. It would require those digital platforms to negotiate in good faith and create a limited safe harbor from antitrust laws for eligible journalism providers.
“This bill supports the little guy by allowing local news providers to better negotiate with tech companies for the earnings they deserve,” Kennedy said.