Editorial – Congress missed a chance to build up local news

You are currently viewing Editorial – Congress missed a chance to build up local news

By Editorial Board of The Dallas Morning News

Congress had an opportunity this year to take an important step to support stronger communities, better government and civil discourse.

Unfortunately, a heavy lobbying effort succeeded in derailing the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act that would have given regional and small publishers the opportunity to negotiate fair compensation for the journalism that Google and Facebook host on their platforms.

As local journalism has struggled, America’s sources of information have become more polarized and less reliable while technology platforms have benefited from becoming the top source of information for most Americans.

The JCPA would have given publishers the opportunity to negotiate with Alphabet and Meta, the parent companies of Google and Facebook, over the monetary value they draw from journalism that news organizations produce.

The legislation represented a four-year exemption from antitrust law that prevents publishers from negotiating as a group. The biggest newspapers in the country were excluded from the deal.

France and Australia have already passed similar laws to help ensure that local news remains economically viable by incentivizing digital platforms to negotiate deals with news organizations. Canada and New Zealand are considering similar legislation.

And despite a threat from Meta to remove Australian news from its platform, the company relented because its management understands that original journalism is a major driver of traffic for Facebook.

“It’s not fair that the big digital platforms like Google and Meta get to host and share local news for free. It costs to produce the news, and it’s only fair they pay,” Willie Jackson, New Zealand’s broadcasting minister, said earlier this month.

It’s hard to understand how the U.S. government can accept that major American tech companies either are or soon will be compensating news organizations in foreign countries for the value they bring to those companies while refusing to pass legislation here.

Many in Congress did understand that, and a bipartisan group led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., had worked through the year to try to get enough support for legislation that would have helped stabilize the finances of local journalism organizations.

The effort met a tsunami of resistance from Meta. It was also attacked by conservative lobbying groups.

It’s time to recognize that the most extreme elements in our society and government benefit from a landscape where professional news organizations have fewer resources to cover the news, to dig into public officials’ backgrounds, to shine light on their actions and to keep the public informed about their government.

The JCPA represented an acknowledgment that two of the world’s wealthiest companies have made billions of dollars off the work of journalists and their publications.

It was a chance to offer an exemption to an antitrust law whose relevance is tied to a bygone era when profitable newspaper empires could threaten the flow of information.

Today, the problem has shifted. A duopoly controls the flow of much of the free world’s information.

Other countries are changing that. Why isn’t America?

Reprinted with permission.