A trade group representing many of the country's biggest newspapers, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, said Monday it's lobbying to revise antitrust laws in order to allow newspapers to bargain collectively with Google and Facebook.
"When it comes to the media, existing laws are having the unintended consequence of preventing news organizations from working together to negotiate better deals that will sustain local, enterprise journalism that is critical to a vibrant democracy," the News Media Alliance said in a statement posted on its website.
Paul Boyle, News Media Alliance senior vice president for public policy, says the group hopes to collectively address the "impact of the digital duopoly" -- meaning Google and Facebook -- on news organizations. "Their rules often commoditize news, and restrict the ability of publishers to implement business models like subscriptions," he says.
He adds that the organization's push for a change in antitrust law is driven partly by the recent Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit against publishers that colluded with Apple to fix e-book prices. That prosecution had a "chilling effect" on other industries where players want to "come together and talk about potential business model issues," he says.
Congress has previously granted newspapers a limited exception from antitrust laws. In 1970, lawmakers enacted the Newspaper Preservation Act , which allowed newspapers in the same market area to form joint operating agreements.
Should Congress again revise the antitrust law, newspapers potentially could negotiate with Google and Facebook over several issues -- including matters like the amount of consumer data shared with publishers, and whether the platforms will point readers to the original sources of information, Boyle says.
Late last year, the News Media Alliance lobbied in favor of new copyright laws that could discourage online platforms like Google from aggregating news. "Copyright laws must be structured to allow for a return on investment, and not to encourage aggregators, search engines, social media sites and advertising networks to build revenue from content in which they do not invest," the group said last December in a letter to President Donald Trump.