U.S. lawmakers to introduce antitrust bill to protect news media

A bipartisan group led by Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. David Cicilline will introduce a bill on Wednesday (March 10) aimed at making it easier for news organizations to collectively negotiate with platforms such as Google and Facebook.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Mich.) said they would also join in introducing the bill, Reuters reported. Buck is the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.

The measure would allow newspapers, broadcasters or digital news organizations to join forces to win better deals from Facebook and Google over a four-year period.

Klobuchar said she is optimistic about the possibility of the measure becoming law because of growing concern among lawmakers in both parties about monopolies by big tech companies. “The tech world is relentless,” she said. The bills would allow the negotiating parties to negotiate on “everything from advertising revenue to access to subscriber information.

Most people now get their news online through Facebook and Google, she said.

Social media companies use news to attract users, but news publishers accuse them of not sharing enough advertising revenue with them. This legislation could boost news publishers’ revenues.

It’s undeniable that the news industry is struggling amid declining advertising revenue and changing media habits, with employment at U.S. newspapers halved since 2008, according to Pew Research.

“This bill will give hard-working local journalists and publishers the help they need right now so they can continue to do their important work.” Cicilline said in a statement.

Smaller publishers using Google’s ad-selling technology have complained for years that their bigger competitors are getting more lucrative revenue-sharing deals from the search giant.

The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, chaired by Cicilline, will hold a hearing on the matter Friday.

In the Senate, Klobuchar introduced a broader bill in February aimed at strengthening the ability of antitrust enforcers to block mergers by lowering the threshold for blocking deals and increasing the resources of enforcers. Cicilline is expected to introduce a series of antitrust bills in the House of Representatives.

Recently, Facebook and Australia have been engaged in a bitter battle over how much of the profits publishers should share from social media. Legislation proposed in Australia would require Facebook and Google to pay Australian publishers for citing news links or price them through arbitration.

In January, HD Media, a West Virginia-based media company, sued Google and Facebook, saying the companies’ anti-competitive business practices threatened the survival of local newspapers across the country.

In its lawsuit, HD Media, a publisher of daily and weekly newspapers, is asking a federal court to rule on whether the two Silicon Valley companies violated antitrust laws. The lawsuit alleges that Google has illegally exercised its monopoly power in the digital advertising market, preventing newspapers from competing in the marketplace and depriving them of their primary source of revenue.