Whether it was the last-minute Facebook threat or some other unrevealed reason for red-lining, a measure that would have allowed media organizations to jointly negotiate revenue-sharing agreements with Big Tech companies was dropped late Tuesday night.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), a bipartisan bill spearheaded by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, was to be part of Congress’s defense-spending legislation, removing the legal hurdles that bill-makers said would allow news organizations to “negotiate collectively and secure fair terms from gatekeeper platforms that regularly access news content without paying for its value.”
The News Media Alliance warned that the “use and abuse” of such Big Tech platforms as Facebook, Google, and Apple would turn social media into “America’s de facto local newspaper,” but the JCPA provisions were ultimately omitted from the bill just one day after Facebook threatened to remove news from its platform altogether should the proposal pass.
In a Twitter post Monday, Andy Stone, a spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company, Meta, said the “ill-considered journalism bill” ignored the value of increased traffic and subscriptions that Facebook says they provide.
“The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act fails to recognize the key fact,” Stone tweeted. “Publishers and broadcasters put their content on our platform themselves because it benefits their bottom line – not the other way around. No company should be forced to pay for content users don’t want to see and that’s not a meaningful source of revenue.”
In addition to Meta’s threat of removal, two trade organizations had also announced on Monday that they would be taking out six-figure ad buys opposing the legislation, according to The Washington Post. (Here is the knotty note that Amazon, a member of those two trade groups along with Google and Meta, was founded by Jeff Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post. Additionally, the Post is a member of the News Media Alliance.)
Meta’s threat mirrored its response to similar legislature last year in Australia, where the company ultimately reached a consensus with the government following outrage to their news ban. While we won’t know if the company would have followed through with the threat here in the United States, publishers know all too well the daily challenges of coexisting with Big Tech.
“Local news is facing an existential crisis in our country,” said Klobuchar in a release announcing the bill in August, “with ad revenues plummeting, newspapers closing, and many rural communities becoming ‘news deserts’ without access to local reporting.”
“To preserve strong, independent journalism, we have to make sure news organizations are able to negotiate on a level playing field with the online platforms that have come to dominate news distribution and digital advertising.”