Antitrust panel reviews bill to give news publishers more deliberation

A Senate antitrust panel has reviewed a bipartisan proposal aimed at giving news publishers more leverage to negotiate with major tech platforms.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who leads the antitrust panel, co-sponsored the Journalism Competition and Protection Act to help news organizations be pressed by Big Tech.

Co-sponsored by four Republicans and four Democrats, the bill would allow news publishers to bargain collectively against big tech companies like Google and Facebook, which dominate advertising and distribution in the news industry.

“These big tech companies are not friendly to journalism – they spend advertising dollars buying news content, feeding it to their users and refusing to offer fair compensation,” Ms Klobuchar said at Wednesday’s hearing. “They also make money off of consumers by absorbing as much data as possible about each reader using content produced by news organizations.”

The problem is personal for Ms. Klobuchar, whose father is a reporter and columnist for the Twin Cities.

The bill was presented in the Senate nearly a year ago and has taken a back seat to other laws to crack down on technology through antitrust laws, including targeting Apple and Google’s app stores and trying to stop big tech companies from opting for their products online.

Critics of the Journalism Competition and Protection Act say the proposal did not achieve the desired result. Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee said the legislation would allow competitors to collude against joint Big Tech business partners.

Mr. Lee said he was concerned about “giving cartel formation hall clearance to an industry devastated by a host of other problems.”

“I know that publishers, including some of our witnesses today, believe they will benefit, but laws like the Journalism Competition and Protection Act will help the New York Times and the Washington Post more than they do. For local journalism in Salt Lake City or Minneapolis, “The only way to fix this is to encourage and allow and encourage competition, not eliminate it, and certainly not give people a hall pass to make contact that would challenge, threaten, and undermine the competition.”

Mr. Lee’s opposition to the law reiterated his complaints last year from Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan against the House version of the bill. Mr. Jordan said the Journalistic Competition and Protection Act would allow Big Tech and Big Media to cooperate. The billing then stopped.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel prioritized other legislation seeking to crack down on the technology. The Judiciary Committee planned to review two other proposals for Thursday: one focused on reducing the power of Apple and Google’s app stores, and the other focused on rewriting legal liability protections for technology platforms.

The News Media Alliance, a coalition of news publishers including the Washington Times, lobbied to support the Journalism Competition and Protection Act, and a News Media Alliance board member attended Wednesday’s hearing.

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