New Bill Gives News Outlets Unified Front in Edge Negotiations

The News Media Alliance is celebrating the introduction of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.

The bill, which was introduced March 7 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), would allow news outlets to negotiate collectively with Facebook and Google on issues such as the quality, accuracy and attribution of news sources.

The bill would give those media outlets a safe harbor from antitrust laws to "collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms regarding the terms on which their content may be distributed."

Related: FTC Could Cast Gaze on Big Tech

The safe harbor would apply to any digital or print news operation, so would include the news websites of TV stations and cable news outlets, so long as at least 25% of the content was "current news and related content," either its own or aggregated from a third party.

The bill language cites the power of the edge as potential gatekeepers over access to information, saying that "some dominant platforms serve as a de facto gateway to all online content for many web users, wielding an enormous amount of control over how readers find and interact with content produced by the press."

The bill is just the latest move by Washington to include edge providers in conversations about regulating the internet given its growing centrality in the global ecosystem of everything. "An entity with the power to dictate the terms of distribution of news has the power to dictate the content of the news," the bill reads.

The News Media Alliance was understandably pleased given that it has been pushing for the exemption.

In an op ed Monday (Feb. 26) in the Wall Street Journal, Alliance President David Chavern had signaled that Cicilline planned to introduce the bill: "The news business is suffering," Chavern wrote, "but not because people don’t want news. They do—more than ever. The problem is that the money generated by news audiences flows mostly to Google and Facebook, not to the reporters and publishers who produce excellent journalism."

“We are grateful to Congressman Cicilline for his commitment to ensuring fair competition with the platforms and for his work to preserve quality journalism,” Chavern said of the bill's introduction. “Our industry depends on our ability to continue to invest in stories that report the truth and hold our public officials accountable.”

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.