Broadcasters Push For Bill Allowing Them To Bargain With Tech Companies

A group of broadcasters are urging the Senate to take up a controversial bill that would allow news outlets to band together to negotiate with Facebook and Google over payment for links to news articles.

“This critical legislation would help level the playing field so that broadcasters and other local news publishers can jointly negotiate with dominant online platforms and be fairly compensated,” broadcaster associations representing stations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, say in a letter sent this week to Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

The associations are urging the lawmakers to bring the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (S. 673) to a floor vote before the end of the year. The bill, sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.

The proposed law would grant an antitrust exemption to news organizations with fewer than 1,500 employees, in order to allow those organizations to negotiate with Google and Facebook for payment.

The broadcast associations write that the measure is needed to combat “tech behemoths,” arguing that large tech companies threaten local broadcasters and news publishers.

“Broadcasters and other news publishers are now competing with these massive platforms for advertising revenue, and these platforms often act as gatekeepers of online content -- exerting power over what internet users access and how advertisers reach them,” the broadcasters write.

They add that the proposed law “is an urgently needed first step toward countering Big Tech’s market dominance.”

Some other media industry organizations including the News Media Alliance also support the law.

But the tech industry and digital rights groups -- including Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- oppose the measure.

Public Knowledge recently argued that requiring payment for linking to content “undermines years of copyright law.”

“Linking does not infringe on any of the exclusive rights of copyright holders, and snippets have been consistently considered fair use of the content by the courts,” the organization wrote earlier this month. 

The tech-industry funded policy organization Chamber of Progress, which also opposes the bill, adds that the measure will contribute to the spread of false information online. 

“By forcing online companies to pay and link to nearly every far-right website claiming to provide 'news,' the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would spread misinformation and further undermine faith in journalism -- hurting the very industry the bill intends to help,” the organization argues.

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