Congress must act to preserve the future of local journalism
In 2022, with news from around the world available at the touch of a button, how do we stay informed about the events that shape our communities? Who shines the spotlight on the town hall or illuminates our choices at the polls? Who helps consumers when they are harmed or exposed to unsafe conditions in our neighborhoods? Who educated the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, avoided misinformation and helped us stay healthy?
Television and radio stations and the thousands of journalists they employ provide timely and reliable reporting on issues affecting the places where we live, work, learn and raise our families.
These journalists take their work and what it means to our country seriously. Inadequate local news has been linked to increased government corruption, less competitive elections and weaker municipal finances. The lack of local news can put lives at risk, fray the bonds of unity in our communities and weaken our democracy.
Unfortunately – and alarmingly – the economic base of local journalism is under attack.
Local broadcasters depend on advertising, especially from small businesses, to fund incredibly expensive newsgathering operations. However, today’s advertising market is now dominated by a handful of giant tech platforms – some of the richest companies in history with market caps that dwarf the entire advertising industry. publishing news. The media are facing daunting challenges in recouping this lost advertising revenue. Local broadcasters in smaller, rural markets, with fewer new advertisers they can attract to fill this revenue shortfall, have been particularly hard hit.
Local television and radio stations have continually adopted new forms of content distribution – including online streaming – to engage with their viewers, readers and listeners. Yet they have to compete with the monopoly power these tech giants wield over digital platforms as content gatekeepers.
How powerful are these tech companies? The Wall Street Journal recently reported last year, “when Facebook blocked news in Australia in response to potential legislation requiring platforms to pay publishers for content, it also took down pages for Australian hospitals, emergency services and charities. He publicly called the resulting chaos ‘inadvertent.’ Internal company whistleblowers, however, paint a different picture, alleging that the social media giant deliberately blocked the pages of these critical sources of information to “exercise maximum bargaining power over the Australian Parliament, which was passing the world’s first law that would require platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay media outlets for content.
News outlets have almost no influence when dealing with tech giants when it comes to the terms of compensation or display of online content on these platforms. Technology platforms may favor some news sources over others, such as national outlets over small publishers. They can place a factual story from a reputable medium next to flashy clickbait, seemingly misleading users about the quality of information they are consuming. They can set a minimum content length that exceeds a typical news segment before a video will receive compensation. They can group local journalism into general categories of “news” that advertisers choose to avoid, or they can exclude news publishers altogether from more lucrative advertising options. Digital platforms also alone control the distribution of revenue for monetized content, dictating to broadcasters and other news publishers how much they will receive for their content.
There is strong support among the American public for lawmakers to take action and preserve the future of local journalism. A recent national survey found that three-quarters of Americans think big tech companies drive small, local news outlets out of business, and four in five Americans say Congress is taking steps to give small, local publishers greater parity with large technology companies when negotiating the use of their content.
the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) would do just that, allowing local news outlets to come together to negotiate terms of access to their online content.
This bill, which has the support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, would help level the playing field for the media against these big tech companies.
Thanks to the senses. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Kennedy (R-La.) and Reps. David Cicilline (DR.I.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) for leading the charge for the JCPA and working to ensure the viability of local news in our communities.
News publishers across the country have come together to implore Congress to pass this much-needed legislation that would provide meaningful safeguards for fair negotiations between news publishers and mainstream digital platforms, create a fair deal that would benefit news consumers and allow local journalism to continue serving our communities.
Curtis LeGeyt is President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.