WASHINGTON, March 12, 2021 — At a House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on Friday, industry and labor representatives debated how to best solve the crisis in journalism. The hearing addressed the recently introduced Journalism Competition and Preservation Act — which would exempt publishers and broadcasters from antitrust rules, allowing them to collude in negotiations for potential payments from platforms like Facebook and Google.
Lobbyists working for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Microsoft and the National Association of Broadcasters are vocal supporters of the legislation.
Free Press Action filed written testimony in advance of the hearing, explaining that the business model of both Big Tech and Big Media is bad for democracy and urging the committee to pursue policies that “support a robust noncommercial journalism sector that amplifies the voices of people of color and creates new opportunities they were never given in broadcasting, in cable, or in publishing.”
Free Press Action Co-CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
Whether Facebook or Fox, the top priority of these media and tech companies is to maximize profits, not serve the public interest. Congress needs to prioritize policies that move resources directly to newsroom workers and support vigorous local reporting. There is a real crisis in journalism, and we need to invest public resources in better serving community needs. But we can’t do that without first confronting the hate-and-lie-for-profit model that’s pervasive in both Big Tech and Big Media.
Broadcasters are still raking in billions and don’t need a bailout, and the deceptive and racist content peddled by the likes of Fox and Sinclair isn’t worth saving anyway. The hatemongers and hedge-fund vultures have never served the public interest, and they won’t start doing so now. We should be instead focused on helping local journalists and supporting the kinds of reporting that are committed to truth-telling, equity, accountability and localism.
Congress needs to address the power of the platforms, their dominance of online advertising, and their sketchy data practices and role in spreading disinformation. The lack of competition policy has been glaring across the media industry, and we urge the subcommittee to look at how consolidation and concentration have negatively impacted the newspaper, broadcasting, cable, telecom and tech sectors as a whole. We need renewed interest in preventing unchecked merger activity and runaway consolidation — and renewed skepticism of the lies conglomerates tell to regulators and the courts, again and again, to get these mergers approved.
A tax on the massively profitable online-advertising sector is a much better legislative approach than facilitating the transfer of money from Mark Zuckerberg to Rupert Murdoch. The advertising tax that Free Press Action has proposed would force the largest online advertisers — in an industry that’s dominated by Facebook and Google — to pay billions to help clean up the mess they’ve made of our civic discourse. The funds generated would be used to support the types of initiatives that put journalists back to work and benefit the civic health of our communities.
Building a more robust and diverse noncommercial media sector is the best remedy for what ails journalism. We can help journalism most through the sort of innovation already beginning to happen in the nonprofit and local-media sectors, not with bills that seek to jolt new life into the big-media companies that have already failed us.
Free Press Action is a nonpartisan organization fighting for people’s rights to connect and communicate. www.freepress.net