The News Media Alliance commends Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for the release of her report, “Local Journalism: America’s Most Trusted News Sources Threatened,” outlining how changes in the information marketplace and the dominance of online platforms pose an existential threat to local news publishers. The report notes the vital importance of high-quality journalism to our communities and calls for the restoration of local journalism, including through Congressional action.
The publication of the report comes ahead of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s hearing on Wednesday, October 28 examining Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as well as the impact of big tech platforms on local news and consumer privacy.
Cantwell’s report explores both the history and current challenges facing news publishers. It highlights the ways in which Google and Facebook abuse their dominant positions as intermediaries between news publishers and their readers to prevent adequate monetization of quality news content. The report frequently cites the News Media Alliance’s White Paper, “How Google Abuses Its Position as a Market Dominant Platform to Strong-Arm News Publishers and Hurt Journalism,” published in June, for substantiated examples of such abuse.
News Media Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, stated, “As Senator Cantwell’s report notes, local news is an essential part of the fabric that keeps our communities informed and connected. But right now, local news is in crisis. Two companies, Google and Facebook, effectively regulate news publishers by determining how (and whether) journalism is distributed and monetized. The tech giants have refused to return real value back to the creators of quality news and information, even though they pay to license music and many other forms of content. Meanwhile, these companies also benefit from special, broad liability protections under federal law. We applaud Senator Cantwell for her unwavering focus and support of local news, and we hope she will raise these during the hearing on Wednesday.”
Among other recommendations in her report, Cantwell supports the ability of news publishers to collectively negotiate for better terms with the tech platforms, which would be made possible through passage of S. 1700, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.
Witnesses at the October 28 hearing included the CEOs of Google, Twitter and Facebook, and offered the committee an opportunity to examine legislative proposals to reform Section 230, which shields the online platforms from liability for the content they publish, exacerbating the existing power imbalances in the digital ecosystem and facilitating other online harms.