Congress should pass JCPA to help local newspapers – Orange County Register

Since the beginning of our American republic, newspapers have played a critical role in checking the power of government. The founders understood that a free press was essential to informing the public about government overreach, which is why freedom of the press is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

Technological advancements over the past three decades have clearly upended the business models of newspapers and the means by which stories produced in newsrooms across the country are commonly disseminated.

These changes have resulted in considerable power yielded to Big Tech companies like Facebook and Google, which can influence how stories are made available and how revenues from digital advertising are allocated.

The consequences have been predictable.

According to the California News Publishers Association, the asymmetrical power of Big Tech has meant that “for every dollar made in digital advertising, the platforms take as much as 70% of the revenue, leaving publishers with a scant 30%.”

Facebook and Google have positioned themselves to rake in hundreds of billions of dollars a year in digital advertising revenue, while newspapers across the country have been forced to close or significantly downsize. In California alone, at least 115 newspapers have closed completely since 2004, with over a dozen counties in the state served by just one local news outlet or none at all in the case of two.

It is against this backdrop that the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, and in the House of Representatives by Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, and Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado.

The bill would create a temporary “safe harbor” from antitrust laws to allow news publishers to collectively negotiate with tech companies like Facebook and Google for more reasonable terms with respect to the use of news content on those platforms and distribution of advertising dollars.

We urge its passage.

As everyone knows, nothing comes for free. Newsrooms across the country work every day to provide the public with news and information. This requires employing professionals capable of doing their jobs in an accurate, ethical and responsible manner.

The decline of especially local newspapers across the country has unfortunately left many Americans unaware of what’s going on in their local communities, in their city halls, in their school districts, in their county governments and even in their state government.

This is untenable in a free society.

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