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How this bill proposed by Doug Collins aims to help newspapers
09292017 THE TIMES

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, has introduced a bill that would allow news organizations to negotiate with large online platforms like Google or Facebook about how their content is used on those sites.

Collins, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, is sponsoring the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act along with U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island. Cicilline first introduced the legislation last year.

The legislation would allow news organizations a four-year exemption from antitrust laws to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook about how their content is used. The goal is to give local news organizations an opportunity to work with platforms that distribute their content and have more control over how news content spreads online.

“The antitrust laws prevent newspapers from combining together to form a partnership in which they can actually use their bargaining power so they can get better pricing or so they can gain better placement for the ads and the marketing dollar that is going now to digital platforms,” Collins said.

Collins said the bill aims to help news organizations weather the effects of an increasingly digital news landscape.

“We know that as technology changes, people are getting their news sources from other areas. That’s a part of growth,” Collins said. “At the same point in time, we also don’t want to leave behind what I believe is a valuable part of our community’s ecosystem, and that is local news and the local paper. We believe this is something that reinforces that.”

The Pew Research Center reported in March that 15% of U.S. adults prefer to get their local news through social media, while 23% prefer news websites or apps and 41% would rather watch TV. In the past year, just under a quarter of readers came to the site via social media, while 34% came via search traffic with Google.

The bill has gained support from news associations who say it would help level the playing field between news content creators and online platforms.

“Facebook and Google love us for our local content. But they are not contributing to the cost of gathering our intensely local and interesting news, and publishers do not receive any compensation when our material travels out over these mega-giant networks,” Andrew Johnson, president of the National Newspaper Association, said in a statement. “This bill would give newspapers the ability to work as an industry for fairness in the digital environment.”

According to the News Media Alliance, Facebook and Google are capturing 90 percent of all digital advertising revenue growth and about 60 percent of total U.S. digital advertising.

“We look forward to news publishers having some relief from the platforms that currently regulate who receives our content and how much we are paid,” David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, said in a statement. “Fair compensation for use of news content will allow news publishers to continue to reinvest in quality journalism.”

Collins said that while larger news outlets may see some benefits, the legislation’s goal is to help local news producers bargain with online platforms.

“The big outlets already have a bargaining power that’s a little bit better than say, a local or regional paper,” he said. “Your New York Times, your Washington Post, your Wall Street Journal, they all have a much bigger footprint in that arena.”

He said news organizations have also suffered as advertisers look to online platforms rather than advertising with the local newspaper.

“When people don’t buy your paper or go to your website, and they’re taking news that you wrote and looking at it in another platform or accessing it from that, then the incentive for the advertiser goes down,” Collins said. “… Everyone suffers. We’ll see less reporters, we’ll see less revenue and as we’ve seen all over the country, we’ve seen newspapers close.”

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