Newspaper Trade Group Has Sound Proposals For Biden

Presidential transitions are key periods for industry groups to jockey for attention and influence national policy. With news publishers face a growing threat from digital media rivals, a leading trade group this week presented a list of legislative and regulatory proposals to help protect its vital press institutions.

The News Media Alliance, which represents about 2,000 news organizations in the U.S., presented its recommendations to President-Elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ transition team. The proposals include everything from stronger copyright protections to a limited exemption from antitrust laws, along with stimulus measures to help smaller publishers survive the pandemic.

Many of the proposals take aim at the technology industry, which has protections like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to shield itself from liability for the content people publish on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. That legal immunity has created a perverse incentive to distribute third-party content that's most engaging, regardless of whether it's factual.



The News Media Alliance is pushing for reforms aimed at dissuading online platforms from profiting from "false and dangerous" content.

The alliance wants to see a continuation of the Trump administration's antitrust investigations of technology platforms, especially Google. While the Alphabet-owned company runs the world's most popular internet search service, it presents a bigger threat to publishers with its dominance in the marketplace for automated digital advertising. Google owns the most popular services to buy and sell programmatic ads, and the online exchange where those bids and offers come together.
The Department of Justice in October filed an antitrust suit against Google, but the complaint focused on how Google allegedly arranges to be the default search engine on millions of mobile devices. As the News Media Alliance notes, publishers want to see the Justice Department target Google for possibly anti-competitive behavior in the digital ad market.
The alliance wants the Biden administration to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a stimulus measure to encourage smaller businesses to keep people employed, to local news publishers owned by larger newspaper groups.

That's a dicey proposal, amid revelations that more than half of the first PPP went to 5% of businesses that received funds. New data shows more than half of the $522 billion went to bigger businesses, and only 28% of the money was distributed in amounts of under $150,000. The Biden administration may take steps to ensure more smaller businesses receive the loans.

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