Today, the News Media Alliance – representing almost 2,000 news organizations – called on Congress to allow publishers to negotiate collectively with dominant online platforms. The objective is to permit publishers to have concrete discussions with the two dominant distributors of online news content, Google and Facebook, on business model solutions to secure the long-term availability of local journalism produced by America’s newsrooms.
Consumer demand for immediate, reliable information is growing but the current online distribution systems are distorting the flow of economic value derived from good reporting. Google and Facebook dominate online news traffic and consume the bulk of digital ad revenue. Because of this digital duopoly, publishers are forced to surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized. These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news.
Antitrust laws are intended to address the injury inflicted by dominant monopolistic companies. Yet when it comes to the media, existing laws are having the unintended consequence of preventing news organizations from working together to negotiate better deals that will sustain local, enterprise journalism that is critical to a vibrant democracy. News organizations are limited with disaggregated negotiating power against a de facto duopoly that is vacuuming up all but an ever-decreasing segment of advertising revenue.
“Legislation that enables news organizations to negotiate collectively will address pervasive problems that today are diminishing the overall health and quality of the news media industry,” said David Chavern, President & CEO of the News Media Alliance. “Quality journalism is critical to sustaining democracy and is central to civic society. To ensure that such journalism has a future, the news organizations that fund it must be able to collectively negotiate with the digital platforms that effectively control distribution and audience access in the digital age.”