By Brett Wesner President, National Association of Newspapers; President, Wesner Publications, Cordell, Oklahoma
Google and Facebook have enormous economic and political power in society, especially over the information industry. Many wonder if they have played a role in the misinformation that erodes our free press and plagues our democracy.
Google and Facebook have a digital news content distribution duopoly, which drives people to their platforms where they make money. Platforms are hoarding critical data and using smart tactics, like cropping stories into rich previews, to keep users on their sites — siphoning off ad revenue that smaller local publishers need and weakening their ability to be rewarded for their work. own content.
Google and Facebook generated $4 million in US ad revenue every 15 minutes in the first quarter of 2022. That amount could fund hundreds of local journalists in every state across the country.
It’s no wonder that despite record news consumption, local newspapers across the country have seen their revenues shrink, leading many to lay off journalists or close their doors. Local newspapers simply cannot compete with these national platforms, Google and Facebook. The power imbalance between these platforms and local newspapers – let alone any local newspaper – is so vast that newspapers cannot negotiate the exploitation of information. But antitrust laws protect Google and Facebook from news publishers working together to demand better terms.
No company should have so much control over the news. Congress must take action to curb the undue influence of Big Tech on the news media industry – and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) aims to do just that.
The JCPA is specifically designed to combat anti-competitive practices by Google and Facebook. The proposed legislation would provide a temporary, limited antitrust safe harbor for small, local news publishers to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google for fair compensation for the use of their content. The policy also incentivizes and rewards publishers who invest in their reporters and editorial staff, awarding media outlets with demonstrated investments in their staff a larger portion of the funds resulting from negotiations.
By challenging the monopoly power of Google and Facebook and ensuring that more subscription and advertising dollars go to publishers, the JCPA not only protects and promotes quality information, but also encourages competition.
In today’s partisan political climate, it’s rare for Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything — but the JCPA is an important exception. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agree: We must pass the JCPA to ensure that publishers — especially small, local publishers — are treated fairly and can serve their communities.