Newspaper Safe Harbor bill to be filed in Congress on March 6

From Danielle Coffee, Vice President, Public Policy, News Media Alliance

Although our audience is growing, advertising revenue that has supported our journalism continues to decline.

The reason? Over the past decade Google and Facebook have acquired numerous social and ad tech companies and gained dominance in the digital advertising marketplace. This is an interesting time to be gathering and reporting the news. Our audience has never been bigger or more engaged than it is today, across all distribution platforms.

Because Google and Facebook have a unique digital footprint to collect consumer data and target behavioral advertising, they are able to capture 71% of all digital advertising in the United States.

Because of their market dominance — and access to billions of users–publishers are forced to play by rules set by Google and Facebook, which affects how content is displayed, prioritized and monetized. These rules have led to the commoditization of the news and the inability of consumers to differentiate between fake news produced by teenagers in Macedonia and real news, by real journalists.

Local news has been hit the hardest. Readers of local news publications are most concerned, rightfully, about how their local coverage is affected by the duopoly’s market power, including the impact on local newspapers’ revenue necessary to sustain high-quality journalism.


The newspaper industry is calling on Congress to enact a modest “safe harbor” – limited in time and scope – to allow newspapers to negotiate with online platforms on business model solutions to support journalism.

We believe legislation is the only appropriate way to correct the competitive imbalance created by the executive branch’s lax enforcement of the antitrust laws over the last decade.

When book publishers tried to negotiate with online platforms, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against them.  The result has been a chilling effect in our industry.

Congressman David Cicillene (D-RI), Ranking Member of the House Antitrust Subccommittee has committed to introducing legislation that would allow for the ability to negoatie without fear of antitrust sanctions. The bill will create an antitrust safe harbor for negotiations between publishers who create original news and online content distributors (Google and FB); on negotiations pertaining to subscriptions, branding, or data sharing; for a limited time of 48 months.

We will also share Alliance CEO David Chavern’s Op-Ed that will run in WSJ on February 26 announcing the bill’s introduction.

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