A missed opportunity to help vital journalism

Local Newspaper
Dwayne Lewis reads a local newspaper covering the death of Gregg Allman, Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Macon, Ga. (Branden Camp/AP)

A missed opportunity to help vital journalism

What do Google, Facebook, and the ACLU all have in common? These left-wing institutions all oppose legislation that would let local news bargain fairly with Big Tech platforms.

Google and Facebook spent millions fighting the inclusion of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, and they won this round. But the legislation advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time this year, and the bill will be back again next year.

Google and Facebook oppose the act because it would empower local news producers across the country to band together and negotiate for fair compensation for the news they produce without risking antitrust violations.

This change would level a playing field that is tilted in favor of Google and Facebook. That’s why they are so strongly opposed to it. For every dollar spent advertising on news websites, Google and Facebook keep about 50 cents. This is why, although traffic to news websites is up 40% since 2014, news site revenue is down 58%.

Google and Facebook, which produce no news on their own, are reaping unfair profits from small and local producers that do.

The monopolies held by these left-wing Silicon Valley giants are pushing newspapers across the country out of business. Conservative communities are hardest hit. Approximately 1,800 communities nationwide lack a local newspaper, and 85% of these communities vote Republican. That means these communities are either not covered by any news outlet, or when they are, it is by left-wing journalists from big blue cities who often view it as their job to impose their values.

Supposedly free market institutions, almost all of which are on the take from Google or Facebook, have described the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act as a bailout of liberal media. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The New York Times and Washington Post already have their own deals with Big Tech. Besides, news organizations with more than 1,500 employees are excluded from the legislation. What the bill does do is allow small newspapers and broadcasters — usually the journalists closest to local communities and their values — to band together and negotiate with the Big Tech platforms such as Google and Facebook. It is a limited antitrust exemption, similar to the one federal courts have granted music creators.

On average, two local newspapers die every week. These deaths did not start with the creation and spread of the internet. They only started after Google and Facebook gained their near-monopoly in the online advertising market. By letting local newspapers band together, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act just lets small publishers get a fair price for generating audiences for the ad platforms.

The Washington Examiner would stand to gain from passage of the bill, a fact we have always been frank about in voicing our support. It would help us spread our conservative message, for sure, but it would also help thousands of local newspapers nationwide that have views we do not share. That is the broader reason to support the bill. Our national discourse needs voices other than just big liberal corporate media. Without this legislation, many smaller and independent news sources will perish.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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