The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act appears to be moving toward a bipartisan approval in the Senate. The bill gives news organizations a four year exemption from antitrust laws so they can collectively negotiate with big tech companies like Google and Facebook and be paid for their content posted on those sites.
“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,” bill sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a statement.
Lawmakers are concerned that when people visit these sites to catch up on the news, the tech company makes all the money, even though the user logged on to find the news organization’s work. Lawmakers want to help the news organizations get a bigger cut of the profit.
“I agree that big tech exercises a concentration of power that I think is unknown in the history of mankind. And that concentration of power is regularly used to trample on the little guy,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.
Sen. Cruz agreed to support the bill after an amendment was approved to bar negotiations regarding censorship and the type of content being posted.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the speech they’re silencing, the idea that we would cede monopoly control of public discussion in America to three or four billionaires in Silicon Valley, modern-day American oligarchs, is profoundly dangerous,” Sen. Cruz said.
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., wants a provision added that ensures revenue goes to journalism, not executives. He pointed to newspaper conglomerate Gannett which recently spent $100 million on stock buybacks and executive pay at the same time it laid off 400 employees.
Opponents of the bill said the news industry should not be given a special carveout of antitrust laws that explicitly prohibit this type of collaboration amongst businesses to set prices.
“This is still a bill that actually exacerbates the dependence of news publishers on big tech, it certainly doesn’t solve it, I think it makes it a lot worse,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said.
The bill was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and now moves onto the final approval process in that chamber. It still needs to pass the House.