FEATURED: U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at the Michigan Democrats Dinner in Detroit, Michigan. Klobuchar is the author of S. 673, the Senate bill that proposes the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). That measure would would allow local news publishers/broadcasters to come together to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook for higher compensation for use of their content.
Photograph Courtesy SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR FACEBOOK
News media owners and public access groups battle in Congress over proposed Senate bill – S. 673 – also known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, reports attorney Omar Ochoa
Powerful news media organizations are battling influential public access groups in the U.S. Senate over a bill that supporters say is needed to protect the future of local news, while opponents believe such a law would reduce people’s access to credible information on the Internet, reports attorney Omar Ochoa.
The legislative fight centers on the proposed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, a measure being championed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota.
The proposal would allow news publishers and non-network news broadcasters, with fewer than 1,500 exclusive full-time employees, to form joint negotiations for higher compensation for use of their content.
Recently, her bill, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, – also known as S. 673 – was approved by a Senate committee and awaits to be scheduled for debate and action by the full Senate.
“According to supporters of the legislation, since 2005, ‘the nation has lost more than 2,500 newspapers and tens of thousands of newsroom jobs, turning the communities of tens of millions of Americans into siloed news deserts devoid of local reporting,’” Ochoa said.
A news desert is a community where residents have significantly diminished access to important local news and information that feeds grassroots democracy. Today, more than 200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties have no local newspaper. Half – 1,540 counties – have only one newspaper.
Two-thirds – 2,000 – no longer have a daily newspaper.
Digital news sites have failed to fill the void, leaving residents to turn to social media or regional television stations in distant cities for news.
The News/Media Alliance endorse the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act
“Those supporters of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (S. 673), according to the News/Media Alliance, ‘believe that such a situation is unprecedented; since the late 1780s, newspapers financed by advertising have been a fundamental part of American society and governance. Advertising provided a means of supporting independent information channels free from state control,’” Ochoa added.
The News/Media Alliance is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 news and magazine media organizations and their multi-platform businesses in the United States and globally.
News/Media Alliance members include print and digital publishers of original journalism. Headquartered just outside Washington, D.C., the association focuses on ensuring the future of journalism through communication, research, advocacy, and innovation.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would allow local news publishers to come together to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook for fair compensation for use of their content, as small and local publishers currently do not have the ability to negotiate these deals on their own, as the dominant tech platforms capture the majority of U.S. digital ad revenue, leaving local publishers with little to reinvest in the production of high-quality journalism, explains the News/Media Alliance.
The News/Media Alliance’s reasons for supporting S. 673 are found online at:
Information about the News/Media Alliance can be found at:
Legislation would hurt consumers access to local news, says Public Knowledge
Key reasons to oppose the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act are highlighted by another nonprofit organization – Public Knowledge – which says S. 673 will likely hurt consumers’ access to local, reliable, and independent news.
“Public Knowledge, along with dozens of other organizations, warns that the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will do nothing to help preserve local journalism and, in fact, will likely compound some of the biggest problems in our information landscape today: consolidation and declining quality of information,” Ochoa continued.
Public Knowledge is known for its advocacy for copyright defenses and exemptions such asfair use and against the expansion of copyright in general. For instance, in response to the FCC‘s attempt to mandate a broadcast flag for all digital TV tuners, Public Knowledge led the successful legal campaign to have the rule overturned.
One study of the politics of digital rights management policy concluded, “Since its 2001 founding, Public Knowledge has risen to prominence as the pre-eminent DC-based policy advocacy organization within the strong fair use coalition.”
Google, Facebook claim they help journalism, not hurt it
Google operates Google News, which is a computer-generated vertical search engine that collects and aggregates (forms into groups) news stories and headlines from thousands of information sources worldwide. Google then displays them based on a variety of factors including user preferences and interests, relevancy, content freshness, and authority.
Google officials say their advertising technology helps news organization make money by showing ads of the website, apps, and videos, and that every year, Google pays out billions of dollars directly to the publishing partners in its ad network.
For their part, the leadership of Facebook say they do not take publisher content, Instead, such content appears on Facebook for one of two reasons: Publisher post it to their Facebook Page, or share a link to it. Publishers post content in order to build an audience, engage a community, monetize it directly on Facebook or drive traffic back to the owned and operated sites.
Klobuchar, Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, issued the following statement after the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, passed the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act by a 15-7 vote.
Klobuchar and Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, say they are leading a bipartisan, bicameral (the House of Representatives and the Senate) legislation to address the power of Google, Facebook, and other online platforms over news organizations.
The term “online platform” has been used to describe a range of services available on the Internet including marketplaces, search engines, social media, creative content outlets, app stores, communications services, payment systems, services comprising the so-called “collaborative” or “gig” economy, and much more.
Klobuchar is the daughter of a newspaperman
Klobuchar says more needs to be done by Google, Facebook and other online platforms for the sake of smaller news media firms.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee has once again stood up to monopoly tech companies on a bipartisan basis. As the daughter of a newspaperman, I understand firsthand the vital role that a free press plays in strengthening our democracy. But local news is facing an existential crisis, with ad revenues plummeting, newspapers closing, and many rural communities becoming ‘news deserts’ without access to local reporting,” Klobuchar said. “To preserve strong, independent journalism, we have to make sure news organizations are able to negotiate on a level playing field with the online platforms that have come to dominate news distribution and digital advertising.”
According to Lisa McPherson, Senior Policy Analyst at Public Knowledge, “While the Journalism Competition and Preservation Ac has undergone extensive rewrites, it is still an antitrust exemption, a legal maneuver that has a history of failing to achieve beneficial goals.
(Antitrust laws prohibit conduct by a single firm that unreasonably restrains competition by creating or maintaining monopoly power.
“Allowing the largest media conglomerates – like Alden Global Capital, Gannett, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and News Corp – to collude (conspire) on the terms of access and value of their content will hurt competition and make our news landscape worse, not better.
“In a bill that is supposedly meant to encourage local journalism, there is no accountability for how the money is spent. Facebook and Google will fund more stock buybacks and executive bonuses than journalists’ salaries. It also introduces a precedent of payment for simply linking to information on the internet.
(A stock buyback is when a public company uses cash to buy shares of its own stock on the open market. A company may do this to return money to shareholders that it doesn’t need to fund operations and other investments. The main reason companies buy back their own stock is to create value for their shareholders. In this case, value means a rising share price.
“This bill is also a threat to content moderation. The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act allows publishers to sue Facebook or Google for taking down content that the platforms find offensive or contrary to their community standards. And with the most recent amendment, proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, harmful misinformation, networked disinformation, and hate speech will be even harder to police under this bill — and that is by design.
“The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will not save local journalism. Instead, it will make a few billionaires even wealthier at the expense of a healthy and open internet and information environment for all of us.”
More Details about the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act
Klobuchar and Kennedy, along with the House sponsors Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, and Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, explained the benefits that would come from the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, including:
• Empower eligible digital journalism providers — that is, news publishers with fewer than 1,500 exclusive full-time employees and non-network news broadcasters that engage in standard news gathering practices— to form joint negotiation entities to collectively negotiate with a covered platform over the terms and conditions of the covered platform’s access to digital news content.
• Require covered platforms—which are online platforms that have at least 50 million U.S.-based users or subscribers and are owned or controlled by a person that has either net annual sales or market capitalization greater than $550 billion or at least 1 billion worldwide monthly active users — to negotiate in good faith with the eligible news organizations;
• Enable non-broadcaster news publishers to demand final-offer arbitration if their joint negotiation with a covered platform fails to result in an agreement after six months;
• Create a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers that allows them to participate in joint negotiations and arbitration and, as part of those negotiations, to jointly withhold their content from a covered platform;
• Prohibit discrimination by a joint negotiation entity or a covered platform against an eligible digital journalism provider based on its size or the view expressed in its content and provide a private right of action for violations of this prohibition; and
• Prohibit retaliation by a covered platform against eligible digital journalism providers for participating in joint negotiations or arbitration and provide a private right of action for violations of this prohibition.Sunset within six years.
Ochoa has experience in journalism print publications
Ochoa was the editor-in-chief of the prestigious Texas Law Review at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, becoming the first Latino to serve in that position.
In the context of law school, a law review is an entirely student-run journal that publishes articles written by law professors, judges, and other legal professionals; many law review journals also publish shorter pieces written by law students called “notes” or comments.
Ochoa, himself a graduate of the University of Texas as well as the UT School of Law, is an advocate for transparency in government, provides regular reports to the public on federal, state, and local laws that impact journalism, communications, freedom of speech issues, and transparency in government.
According to Ballotpedia, which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan online political encyclopedia that covers federal, state, and local politics, elections, and public policy in the United States:
• Openness, accountability, and honesty define government transparency.
• In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is at the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable.
• Governments exist to serve the people. Information on how officials conduct the public business and spend taxpayers’ money must be readily available and easily understood.
This transparency allows good and just governance. Government transparency is traditionally broken into three different types: proactive disclosure, requesting public records, and campaign finance disclosure.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).