Tricky question as NMA looks for GooBook talks waiver

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America's News Media Alliance is in the awkward position of having to ask Congress to allow publishers to negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook.

Institute for Media Studies founder Dietmar Schantin says that while defending the common interests of companies that otherwise can't work together because of their competitive positions is "what industry associations are for", it wouldn't be easy in the best of times.

"How do you think it will go in the era of 'fake news', when the President of the United States calls news media 'the Enemy of the American people'," he says.

News Media Alliance - which represents almost 2000 news organisations - says the objective is to permit publishers to have concrete discussions with the two dominant distributors of online news content on business model solutions to secure the long-term availability of local journalism produced by America's newsrooms.

"Consumer demand for immediate, reliable information is growing but the current online distribution systems are distorting the flow of economic value derived from good reporting," says a statement. "Google and Facebook dominate online news traffic and consume the bulk of digital ad revenue. Because of this digital duopoly, publishers are forced to surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritised and monetised.

"These rules have commoditised the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news."

The group says antitrust laws are intended to address the injury inflicted by dominant monopolistic companies. "Yet when it comes to the media, existing laws are having the unintended consequence of preventing news organisations from working together to negotiate better deals that will sustain local, enterprise journalism that is critical to a vibrant democracy." News organisations are limited with disaggregated negotiating power against a de facto duopoly that is vacuuming up all but an ever-decreasing segment of advertising revenue.

NMA president and chief executive David Chavern says legislation that enables news organisations to negotiate collectively will address pervasive problems that today are diminishing the overall health and quality of the news media industry: "Quality journalism is critical to sustaining democracy and is central to civic society.

"To ensure that such journalism has a future, the news organisations that fund it must be able to collectively negotiate with the digital platforms that effectively control distribution and audience access in the digital age."

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