Big Tech: Journalism Competition & Preservation Act Benefits Big Broadcasters

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

Big Tech and fans of fair use copyright exemptions are pushing back hard on a bill, the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act (JCPA), designed to give creators of original news content, like local broadcasters, more leverage over their content's re-use online.

They argue the bill will help big broadcasters rather than the smaller entities it purports to benefit.

Almost two dozen groups including the Computer & Communications Industry Association, Public Knowledge, Consumer Reports and others, wrote the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee and its Antitrust Subcommittee to argue against giving those broadcasters and others an antitrust exemption so they can jointly negotiate with Big Tech content aggregators.

Also: NAB Praises Hill Progress on Big Tech Targeted Bill

While the JCPA is billed as helping save local news, the groups said that it will do little to improve the situation, and a lot to compound some big problems.

They take issue with language in the bill that they say forces online platforms to negotiate with and carry content of any qualified digital journalism provider "regardless of how extreme their content," then sue them for moderating offensive content or that violated their terms of service or community standards.

Republicans argue that such moderation is a cover for censoring conservative content, while platforms say it is a way to weed out hate speech, disinformation and harassment.

Besides, the groups said, "this form of government mandate for covered platforms to carry and pay is also a violation of First Amendment."

While they concede the bill was written to try and prevent its use to limit fair use rights, but they say it still expands content rights "beyond the traditional bounds of copyright law in ways that would prove detrimental to the public interest."

They argue that the bill is requiring them to pay for facts when the First Amendment makes clear that "no one may own facts."

The groups say that rather than helping small publishers most in need of it, the bill favors bigger broadcasters, including News Corp., Sinclair, iHeart and Comcast/NBCUniversal, by allowing individual station licensees as members of a joint negotiating entity, even if they are all commonly owned -- like a network owned-and-operated station group. "The owners [ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, for example] will
therefore control the governance of these entities and take the lion’s share of revenue," they said. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.