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Survey: GOP Backs Big Tech-Targeted News Media Antitrust Exemption

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A majority of almost a thousand Republican voters polled support giving news publishers a limited antitrust safe harbor to be able to jointly negotiate better terms for Big Tech platforms' use of their news product.

That is according to a poll from Echelon Insights commissioners by the News Media Alliance, a coalition of publishers seeking passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), which would create such a safe harbor.

Also Read: Big Media Takes on Big Tech

The survey found that 73% of Republicans polled said that "local news outlets and conservative media need to be able to band together to better negotiate a fair deal with Big Tech."

Even more (75%) said that they thought Big Tech "should not be allowed to profit from news content unless it is fairly compensating news organizations."

Almost as many (70%) said they thought that Facebook and Google were taking advantage of news outlets in one-on-one negotiations, and ignoring "small, local, and conservative news publishers, leaving them out of negotiations entirely."

Republican lawmakers who have issues with the bill want to make sure the safe harbor applies equally to conservative and smaller media.

The survey found that two thirds of the respondents said that elected officials who oppose the JCPA would be allowing Big Tech to have all the negotiating power.

The political climate might finally be ripe for giving news publishers more clout in negotiations with the Big Tech platforms that draw eyeballs and ad dollars by aggregating the original work of others, including cable and broadcast news operations. Media outlets have been pushing Congress for more negotiating power for several years.

Proponents said a continuing power imbalance could be the death of independent local journalism.

Several factors are at work to give the latest shot at collective bargaining a chance. The COVID-19 pandemic put an even greater emphasis on access to the latest news on everything from vaccine availability to what is opened or closed to what is safe to do. Then there is the flood of fake news, particularly online, that has put a premium on trusted news sources, the kinds that take money to invest in reporters and editors and bureaus and fact-checkers.

Add in the fact that the Big Tech platforms like Google and Facebook — the 800-pound gorillas with whom news outlets must negotiate — aren’t high on Capitol Hill’s holiday card list, over concerns ranging from data breaches and promoting extremism to antitrust issues and Republican assertions of anti-conservative bias, and a bipartisan push for collective news bargaining could have legs after several years of trying.