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News Media Alliance pushes for new Senate antitrust bill

Kate Ackley, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Science & Technology News

A Google spokeswoman declined comment. A Facebook spokesman did not provide comment.

But a blog post by the Computer and Communications Industry Association stated in response to the idea: "Antitrust exemptions are rarely granted because consumers lose when competitors collude." The CCIA added in its post that while the News Media Alliance "argues that leading tech services are unfairly competing as a 'duopoly,' ... experts at the Technology Policy Institute and The Adam Smith Institute, among others, have argued newspaper publishers must adapt to changing markets, not collude."

Chavern said his team circulated draft legislation in the last Congress, making a case for legislative intervention. While the government can't regulate the news media, he said, big tech companies somewhat do by controlling the distribution, the ad revenue and data on readers.

Michael Klingensmith, publisher and CEO of the Star Tribune Media Co. in Minneapolis, said he's been involved in the association for 10 years and credits Chavern with bringing together a disparate collection of news executives.

"We really have sort of coalesced around this issue of being able to more effectively deal with the big platform companies like Google and Facebook," he said. "It's something we all have in common."

The House and Senate legislation would give news publishers a temporary 48-month reprieve from existing antitrust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate.

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"We'll take what we can get," Klingensmith said, adding it should be long enough to make a difference.

Chavern, who said four years should be long enough to build a longer-term and sustainable business of online news, expects to testify at a forthcoming hearing in the House Judiciary panel's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, which Cicilline chairs.

"This bill will provide a much-needed lifeline to local publishers who have been crushed by Google and Facebook," Cicilline said about his bill in a news release.

As for the News Media Alliance, Chavern said that in addition to changing its name, he's also upped the focus on lobbying and advocacy. The alliance also launched a political action committee, which donated less than $1,000 in the 2018 election cycle to Collins, a sponsor of the House measure, according to federal election records.

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