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News Media Alliance commends antitrust chairman David Cicilline for commitment to journalism

Cicilline Commits to Reintroduction of Safe Harbor Bill that Would Allow News Publishers to Collectively Negotiate with Tech Platforms

January 29, 2019

Arlington, VA – Today, House Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) once again underscored the need to preserve critical access to trusted, high-quality news, as he committed to re-introducing the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.” The bill, as it was introduced last Congress, would provide a limited safe harbor for news publishers to collectively negotiate with Facebook, Google and other platforms for better business arrangements.

News Media Alliance President & CEO David Chavern said, “We applaud Chairman Cicilline for his commitment to journalism. We strongly supported his safe harbor bill last Congress, and we are thrilled he remains committed in his new role.  We look forward to news publishers having a seat at the table with the platforms in the near future. Fair compensation for use of news content — from which the tech platforms benefit financially — will allow news publishers to continue to reinvest in quality journalism, the lynchpin of our democracy, which is more important now than ever.”

Chavern has repeatedly called on Congress, through testifying at government hearings and writing op-eds in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA TODAY, to address the imbalance in the news publisher-platform relationship. Chavern has called upon government to step out of the way and allow publishers to negotiate with the platform giants.

Media outlets at the local and national levels had massive layoffs spanning the country just last week – totaling 800 media professionals.

“What is happening to American journalism isn’t a mystery. Google and Facebook are eating this industry alive and taking down American democracy with it,” tweeted HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter after the layoffs. “This isn’t happening because of market inefficiencies or consumer preferences or social value. It’s happening because two very large companies have taken the advertising revenue that journalism outlets rely on and replaced it with nothing.”

During the mid-term elections last year, publishers from across the country called on their members of Congress to support such a measure in the new Congress. The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “If companies that provide high-quality reporting and commentary can’t freely bargain with the likes of Google and Facebook for a fair marketplace, then the news industry’s downward financial spiral will only intensify. News staffs will continue to shrink, Americans will get less high-caliber journalism — and the low-rent providers of skimpy, one-sided or manipulative information will happily fill that void.”

Currently, the Duopoly is capturing 90 percent of all digital ad revenue growth and approximately 60 percent of total U.S. digital advertising. Like Cicilline, the Alliance believes the solution to this problem is to provide a safe harbor for news publishers to allow them to come together to negotiate with the platforms on their overall behalf. “Despite record levels of online readership, news publishers — and local news in particular — have seen a steep decline in revenue during the rise of these technology giants,” Cicilline said today.

“Whether it’s an online publisher or your local newspaper, we cannot have a democracy without a free and diverse press. Our country will not survive if we do not have shared facts, if corruption is not exposed and rooted out at all levels of government, and if power is not held to account. It is simply not possible,” he added.

The Alliance applauds Chairman Cicilline for his proactive stance. “Our industry depends on our ability to continue to invest in stories that report the truth and hold our public officials accountable,” Chavern stated.

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The News Media Alliance is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 news organizations and their multiplatform businesses in the United States and globally. Alliance members include print, digital and mobile publishers of original news content. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Va., the association focuses on ensuring the future of news media through communication, research, advocacy and innovation. Information about the News Media Alliance (formerly NAA) can be found at www.newsmediaalliance.org.