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OUR VIEW: Newspapers need Congress' help

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Local journalism is a cornerstone of democracy and a vital source of information for communities across the country.

Newsrooms cover local politics, high school sports, local business openings, cultural events and other matters that help a community remain vibrant and connected.

But as we’ve discussed in the space previously, the industry is facing crisis because of the unyielding power of Big Tech platforms such as Google and Facebook.

Congress needs to do its part now.

In September, strong bipartisan support sent the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) out of committee, It now awaits an opportunity to get to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

Big Tech benefits tremendously from journalism content, but the online compensation is decidedly one-sided. Local papers are being replaced by tech platforms using black box algorithms designed to keep users on their sites, and those platforms also scoop up advertising cash.

Since news outlets transitioned to digital, they have record audiences, But since 2000, U.S. newspaper circulation has dropped by half, with 31 million fewer daily newspapers in circulation in 2020. In addition, the vast majority of U.S. counties have been left with no regular newspaper.

As local publications struggle to stay afloat, Big Tech has doubled down on anti-competitive practices, further consolidating its control over the flow of information.

The JCPA will benefit small and local publishers exclusively and impose severe penalties if the tech platforms do not negotiate with them in good faith. The bill has a limited scope of six years to address a broken marketplace, while the broader competitive landscape is fixed through other legislation and the courts.

The JCPA also incentivizes publishers to hire more journalists and protects our Constitutional freedoms of speech and the press. The bill’s scope is limited to compensation and does not allow for negotiations around up/down ranking or display – it serves only to ensure fair compensation for local news outlets.

The JCPA has strict transparency requirements on the terms of each agreement reached between tech platforms and journalism providers and establishes clarity in how news outlets spend the funds they receive.

News publishers around the world are being compensated in policies similar to the JCPA.

Local papers cannot afford to endure more of Big Tech. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.

And anyone who’s spent any amount of time on social media will tell you, that’s the last thing anyone wants.


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