Cicilline, Collins Introduce Bill to Provide Lifeline to Local News

Apr 3, 2019

Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will allow small publishers to band together in negotiations with Facebook, Google


WASHINGTON – U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) and U.S. House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (GA-09) introduced legislation today that will allow local news outlets to negotiate collectively with large online platforms, including Facebook and Google.


“The free press is a cornerstone of our democracy. Journalists keep the public informed, root out corruption, and hold the powerful accountable,” said Cicilline. “This bill will provide a much-needed lifeline to local publishers who have been crushed by Google and Facebook. It’s about time we take a stand on this issue.”


“Community journalism holds a critical place in our democracy because it helps the American people understand and engage in civil society,” said Collins. “Through our bipartisan legislation, we are opening the door for community newspapers to more fairly negotiate with large tech platforms that are operating in an increasingly anti-competitive space. This will help protect journalism, promote competition and allow communities to stay informed.” 


The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act establishes a 48-month safe harbor for small publishers to band together to negotiate with dominant online platforms to improve the access to and the quality of news online. Importantly, the safe harbor is narrowly-tailored to ensure that coordination by news publishers is only in the interest of promoting trust and quality journalism.


Specifically, the bill introduced today only allows coordination by news publishers if it (1) directly relates to the quality, accuracy, attribution or branding, or interoperability of news; (2) benefits the entire industry, rather than just a few publishers, and is non-discriminatory to other news publishers; and (3) is directly related to and reasonably necessary for these negotiations, instead of being used for other purposes.


In recent years, the control of information online has been centralized among just a few online gatekeepers. As a result, the news industry is on life support.


In 2017, according to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans accessed news through only two platforms – Facebook and Google. Last year, these same companies amassed more than $60 billion from online advertising – the majority of all online ad revenue. In contrast, annual revenue for news publishers has plummeted by $31 billion since 2006. 


The resulting devastation to newsrooms has directly impacted the quantity and quality of reliable journalism that Americans have access to. According to Pew, from 2008 through 2017, newsroom jobs plunged 23%, with most of the losses coming through job losses at newspapers, where jobs fell by 45% over the same period.


Several recent studies have found that the loss of newspapers can contribute to corruption in local government, a failure to promote public health, and less accountability.