Bill to Grant Limited Antitrust Immunity to Small News Pubs Advances in Senate 

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to advance a bill that would give smaller news organizations limited antitrust immunity to negotiate content licensing deals with Google, Facebook, and other big tech companies.  

Some GOP lawmakers worry that government-sanctioned media “cartels” might apply an “anti-conservative” filter to censor content. But the bill made it out of committee with rare bipartisan support that included typically hardline conservatives.  

Local and regional news organizations were famously weakened by the explosion of free content on the internet and the rise of online Goliaths wielding immense bargaining power. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MI), co-sponsor of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (S. 673), seeks to return some power to these publishers. Those with fewer than 1,500 employees would be permitted to collectively bargain with tech giants over payment for content surfaced on their platforms. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times have more than 1,500 employees, as do the big television news outlets from NBC to CNN to Fox.   

“Nearly 90 percent of Americans now get news while on a smartphone, computer, or tablet, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, dwarfing the number of Americans who get news via television, radio, or print media,” Klobuchar said in a news release. “Facebook and Google now account for the vast majority of online referrals to news sources, with the two companies also enjoying control of a majority of the online advertising market. This digital ad duopoly has directly contributed to layoffs and consolidation in the news industry, particularly for local news.”  

Klobuchar’s summary adds that the Act would allow publishers to collaborate only when doing so: (1) directly relates to the quality, accuracy, attribution or branding, and interoperability of news; (2) benefits the entire industry, rather than just a few publishers, and are non-discriminatory to other news publishers; and (3) is directly related to and reasonably necessary for these negotiations. 

Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) co-sponsored the measure with Klobuchar. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) were among the Republicans who voted with Democrats to move the bill forward.  


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