Another Wisconsin congressman is supporting fair negotiations between local news providers and giant tech companies to get journalists paid for their work.
U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, said last week he added his name as a co-sponsor of the Journalism Preservation and Competition Act because several media outlets in his northern Wisconsin district could leave the business due to the predatory practices of Big Tech.
“For too long, tech giants like Google and Facebook have plagued local news organizations with their monopoly power,” Tiffany said in a statement to the State Journal. “The Journalism Preservation and Competition Act will give hard-working local journalists a level playing field and ease Big Tech’s anti-competitive practices.”
He’s right. And more members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation should support this important cause to preserve independent and professional reporting in their local communities.
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Tiffany joins Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, and 75 other members of Congress in supporting a level playing field for fair negotiations on how search engines and social media can use and monetize local news reports .
Supporters include 44 Democrats and 20 Republicans in the House, and seven Republicans and six Democrats in the Senate. This is as bipartisan as it gets. And a key Senate committee is expected to take up the proposal soon, advocates say. The Senate Judiciary Committee would have to recommend and send the bill to the full Senate for a vote, where Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, and Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, would have to co-sponsor.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would allow local news providers to negotiate as a group with the biggest tech companies for up to four years. The temporary exemption from federal antitrust laws would give local media more power to secure advertising revenue and better control how Google, Facebook and a handful of digital agents use their stories.
Big tech companies take most of the revenue now, with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward news providers, even though it’s local journalists who produce much of the content that these tech companies benefit from. It is not a free or fair market.
News publishers are gaining record online audience. With so much unattributed and unreliable information on social media and shady online platforms, the public is looking for and needs credible information from local sources in their communities.
But many reliable outlets, including smaller newspapers in northern Wisconsin’s Tiffany County, are struggling to survive because Google and Facebook control so much of who can see what online and how revenue from everything is split this traffic
Google and Facebook control the digital market and enjoy dictating the terms in their favor. But Americans increasingly suspect, with good reason, that these companies are unfairly distorting debate, highlighting sensational claims, fomenting division, siphoning personal information and harming our democracy.
They are also charging.
The Journalism Protection and Competition Act would encourage tech giants to negotiate in good faith about the value that local journalism brings to their platforms, as well as how it appears and is prioritized. And instead of Big Tech grabbing most of the ad revenue, more could go back to newsrooms to pay for local news coverage.
Congress must act so that market forces, not two companies, allow local journalism to be fairly compensated, hire more journalists and keep citizens informed.