Plunged into controversy over disinformation and a conspiracy to influence an election, coupled with widespread disgust with their disingenuous attitudes, the media has decided to band together to seek protection from the federal government.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act proposed in 2019 has regained notoriety once again as it has been reintroduced to Congress.
A bipartisan coalition in Congress has reintroduced the bill, which allows news publishers, including local radio and television broadcasters, to collectively negotiate with Big Tech the terms under which their content can be distributed online.
Certain local media have argued that they are at risk of becoming extinct. Jon Schleuss, head of the NewsGuild union, told a House subcommittee that local news faces “an extinction threat” that endangers American democracy.
For example, Google and Facebook are expected to capture more than 50 percent of digital ad spending by 2021, according to eMarketer.
Disturbing figures show Big Tech monopolizing access to information and avenues for media profitability. The Hussman School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina revealed that the U.S. has lost nearly 1,800 newspapers since 2004, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies. About half of the nation’s remaining 7,112 are in small and rural communities; about 5,500 have a circulation of fewer than 15,000.
Even so, advertisers continue to gravitate around the tech giants.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act seeks to establish the ability of smaller, local media outlets to negotiate rates with the Big Techs of the world that share their content for free.
Faced with the possibility of passage of the bill, Facebook and Google have pledged to spend $1 billion each over the next three years on local news initiatives. However, for some in Congress, both that funding and passage of the bill would have serious repercussions.
At a congressional hearing, journalist Glenn Greenwald states with concern that “what we’re hearing is not a sort of idealized or romanticized image that we’d like to think of, of having a diverse and dispersed power across the [media] industry where you can hear many different voices, but a very concentrated industry, very similar in fact to Silicon Valley, maybe a few steps behind.”
“I worry that legislation like this might avoid self-examination of why journalism has failed so many people, why people no longer trust it and don’t put their faith in it,” Glenn Greennwald said.
If this industry is empowered in an unbridled and uncontrolled way, Greenwald believes, it could be encouraging the worst tendencies of the industry. Among them, he mentioned “hedge funds that control the industry or media giants that wield overwhelming power like the New York Times“.
If not carefully studied, the media establishment can further entrench its power through this bargaining power. For Greenwald, the antitrust exemption will also avoid the long-term solutions of dealing with the monopoly power of Silicon Valley that is at the root of all these problems.