Bay Area lawmaker’s bill aims to make Big Tech pay publishers for news

Newsrooms across the country have withered while the stories they produce at great cost enrich big technology companies that pay nothing for sharing them on their platforms.

Despite bipartisan support, attempts to make those companies share advertising dollars with news publishers have sputtered in Congress.

Now, a California lawmaker from the Bay Area is pushing a bill – limited to the state – that would accomplish the same goal using a different approach.

READ MORE: Legislation to force Big Tech to pay publishers for online news ‘blown up’ by censorship amendment

“California has lost more than 100 newspapers in the last decade,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, an Oakland Democrat, who plans to introduce the California Journalism Protection Act in the coming week. “Our constitutional founders understood the importance of a free press. And when you have an ecosystem where there’s not a level playing field and newspapers are shutting down left and right, that concerns me from a democracy standpoint.”

According to the California News Publishers Association, which is sponsoring Assembly Bill 886, and to which the Southern California News Group belongs, 52% of California residents get their news through Facebook and 49% from Google. Those two Silicon Valley companies – divisions of Meta Platforms and Alphabet Inc., respectively – gobble 60% of all digital ad dollars thanks to their ability to collect consumer data.

Wicks’ bill notes that newspaper advertising has fallen 66%, and newsroom staffing has shrunk 44% over the past 10 years.

Her bill follows the December collapse of a similar Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in Congress, a bill carried by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican.

RELATED: Facebook threatens to remove all news content if bill forcing payments to local media outlets passes

The federal bill would have waived antitrust restrictions so news publishers could join in negotiating revenue-sharing agreements with platform content providers such as Facebook and Google. Similar laws have been introduced overseas in Spain and Australia where they are known as “link taxes.”

But bipartisan support – a rarity in today’s politically divisive moment – wasn’t enough to overcome concerns not just from Google and Facebook, but from groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Cato Institute.

Critics argued the federal bill would prop up legacy media companies while discouraging competition from smaller, more innovative news outlets. The ACLU argued that the tech companies could potentially be compelled to share material on their sites that violate their standards.

The California bill takes a different approach. Since states cannot carve out exemptions to federal antitrust law, AB 886 would require tech platforms to directly compensate publishers with a “journalism usage fee” based on the amount of advertising revenue the platform receives from displaying a publication’s content.

“This will ensure that every publisher producing California news content, no matter the size, will be fairly compensated when Big Tech uses their content,” said Brittney Barsotti, general counsel for the CNPA.

The proposed bill “allows print, broadcast or digital news companies to secure …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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