Woodcut by Tommaso Garzoni depicting a town crier with a trumpet / Public Domain

PEN America says proposed law would set ground rules for how Google, Facebook use news content; could potentially help local news outlets



A bill that would provide a temporary exemption to antitrust rules for news outlets represents a potentially positive step toward addressing the economic crisis affecting local news outlets throughout the country, PEN America announced this week,  but cautioned that the effectiveness of the bill will hinge on whether small- and mid-sized news outlets are meaningfully represented in any resulting negotiations.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 aims to provide news providers a two-year enxemption from federal antitrust laws in order to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook over how the digital giants can use those outlets’ online content. Enjoying bi-partisan backing and supported by the newspaper trade group the News Media Alliance—which represents almost 2,000 news organizations—the bill is currently being considered in both the House and the Senate.

“Local news is in crisis, something that affects not only the media sector but that deeply impacts access to critical information for millions of Americans,” said Thomas O. Melia, PEN America’s Washington director. “It is heartening to see bipartisan support for legislation responding to this crisis, and the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act offers an important opportunity for news outlets to negotiate a more equitable arrangement with the tech giants.”

Since 2005, newspapers have lost more than $35 billion in ad revenue. More than 20 percent of the nation’s newspapers have shuttered within the last twenty years. Numerous journalists, media reform advocates, and analysts—including PEN America—have concluded that local news is in crisis. One of the key drivers of this crisis, PEN America argued in its November 2019 report “Losing the News,” is the fact that news outlets see little of the ad revenue for users who find or read their news articles through Facebook or Google.

“To address the crisis in a meaningful way, negotiations between tech companies and news publishers will have to include independent small and mid-sized outlets, as well as those that specifically serve those communities most affected by the decline of local news ecosystems: communities of color and low-income and rural communities,” said PEN America’s Melia.

“Ultimately, the success of this act will be determined by whether it helps ensure Americans continue to have access to original, local, quality news on critical issues in their lives. We welcome this effort to take a creative approach to the local news crisis and urge that hearings on this legislation be convened as soon as possible to refine the proposal.

“Finally, we note that this act represents only one step towards addressing the local news crisis. For such an urgent and serious problem, more—much more—will be needed. That is why PEN America continues to call for a Congressional commission on the local news crisis, to help craft the solutions that will ensure the future of local American journalism.”

This content is courtesy of PEN America and Wikipedia.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


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