Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) pitched legislation that could potentially save small and medium-sized outlets at Semafor’s Media, Government, and a Healthy Democracy event on Friday.
Klobuchar is the lead sponsor of the Journalism and Competition Preservation Act, an antitrust bill that would allow news outlets to negotiate as a group against big tech companies like Google and Facebook.
Klobuchar said that these companies rely on news agencies’ articles to drive traffic on their platforms, but they do not pay the outlets for their reporting. She said she modeled the bill around similar legislation passed in Australia, where the government has effectively forced tech companies to pay news publishers.
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in September in a 15 to 7 vote.
“We have to have a thriving press… This is getting to something that is really a threat against our democracy. We have lost so much coverage on the local level that can never be brought back.” – Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Since 2005, more than a fourth of newspapers have shut down in the United States, according to Northwestern University’s Local News Initiative, and that total could rise to one third by 2025. These closures are largely due to financial difficulties, leading to several communities now living in “news deserts” with no reliable coverage on issues like health, government and environment.
The View From Silicon Valley
The Center for Democracy and Technology – an industry-backed group – opposes the bill. In a statement, the firm said that while they support local journalism, the bill “effectively authorizes group boycotts,” giving outlets unprecedented copyright privileges and undermining established fair-use guidelines.