There is strength in numbers. And through that means, local news organizations hope to gain stronger, much-needed financial footing.
On April 3, U.S. Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Doug Collins, R-Ga., introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, designed to enable local news providers to negotiate collectively with digital giants Google and Facebook, among others. Cicilline is chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee and Collins is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
The legislation, if passed, would grant these news providers limited temporary safe harbor from antitrust laws for 48 months. During that time, the bill would enable them to legally band together for greater negotiating strength in dealings with digital platforms.
Why is this important? Because as technology has advanced over time, local news organizations have suffered, with much of their readership turning to the internet rather than the printed page for news. The result has been slashed personnel and other cutbacks as previous revenue streams have shrunk.
The industry has been adapting and is embracing the digital age, but it needs a more level playing field in order to preserve sustainable financial footing.
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This is where Google and Facebook come into play. Cicilline states on his website that in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans regularly accessed their news through those two platforms. Note the word "accessed." Google News and Facebook's news feed don't create the work product of local, state and national news on its feeds — it shares the work of local news entities across the country. And in doing so, the two platforms raked in a combined $60 billion-plus last year in online advertising revenue, according to Cicilline.
Meanwhile, many local news providers — which did create the work product on those feeds — are struggling. They receive little, if any, compensation from Google and Facebook for their shared work and little, if any, say in how and where it is shared. And, acting individually, they don't have much clout to improve their situation.
Coming together collectively, however, may enable them to negotiate more lucrative agreements with the online giants, and in doing so help preserve their very existence. That's the intent behind the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.
Why should you care? Because local news providers play such an instrumental role in their communities that goes well beyond the big, breaking stories. They keep you informed about the goings-on of your school boards and your city and county councils. They keep you apprised of proposed tax measures, bond referendums, economic development, etc. And they keep a check on local governing bodies' actions.
They are, in essence, watchdogs for their communities. And through their existence, we all benefit as members of those communities.
Congress should pass the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. It would aid the viability of local news organizations and preserve your source of the local news and information important to your community.
This editorial is from The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg via The Associated Press.