The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared legislation that would give news outlets a reprieve from antitrust laws and allow them to band together to negotiate agreements with tech platforms.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act passed in a 15-7 vote, drawing bipartisan support.
“We actually share the view that this is not about content. This is about negotiating prices,” said one of the bill’s key co-sponsors, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
She said the goal of the bill is to “allow local news organizations to get compensation when major titans, monopolies, like Facebook and Google, access their content. It wasn’t about facilitating negotiations about content.”
She proposed an amendment that clarifies that the bill’s focus is solely on compensation for news outlets, not over content. That alleviated concerns of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the legislation could be used as a shield “to further censorship.” He ultimately voted for the legislation.
The bill creates a “safe harbor” from antitrust laws for a period of eight years for newspapers, broadcast stations and digital journalism outlets.
Similar legislation failed to advance in recent years, but a revised version was introduced last month. The new legislation places limits on the size of news outlets that can collectively negotiate, prohibiting news outlets with more than 1,500 full-time employees. It would require so-called “gatekeeper platforms” — i.e., Google and Facebook — to negotiate in “good faith” with those news organizations. The platforms are defined as those with at least 50 million U.S.-based users or subscribers, or those owned or controlled by entities with a market cap of greater than $550 billion or at least 1 billion monthly active users worldwide.
Klobuchar said in a statement after the vote, “Our bipartisan legislation ensures media outlets will be able to band together and negotiate for fair compensation from the Big Tech companies that profit from their news content, allowing journalists to continue their critical work of keeping communities informed.”
A similar bill has been introduced in the House.
Tech platforms opposed the measure. Jennifer Huddleston, police counsel for the internet industry group Net Choice, said in a statement, “Exempting newspapers from antitrust laws will incentivize them to collude in order to control legitimate news and diminish competition. In an effort to prop-up traditional media, Congress forgets that Americans have more sources of news and views than ever before–because of the internet. Traditional media is increasingly woke and progressive, so we’re disappointed to see Republicans support this bill.”