US publishers seek to have negotiation block lifted

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A new bill to the US Congress aims to provide limited 'safe harbour' provisions to enable American publishers to negotiate collectively with social media giants.

Introducing the 'Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2018', Congressman David Cicilline is working to æensure fairness and preserve critical access to trusted, high-quality news".

The bill would incorporate a limited 'safe harbour' into current antitrust laws, providing news publishers the ability to collectively negotiate with big tech platforms, such as Facebook and Google, on important factors - such as the quality, accuracy, and attribution of news sources - that underpin their livelihoods and affect the public's continued ability to access news from trustworthy sources - a lynchpin of our democracy.

The bill supported buy industry stakeholders including more than 200,000 local and national news publications, the American Society of News Editors, the National Newspaper Association and Association of Alterative Newsmedia, and 44 state press associations representing 47 states.

"Our papers need to be able to band together to negotiate with giants like Facebook or Google," says NNA president Susan Rowell, who is publisher of The Lancaster News in South Carolina.

News Media Alliance president and chief executive David Chavern has again called on Congress to allow publishers to negotiate with dominant online platforms, saying the previously-reported problems arising from the duopoly's dominance in the marketplace have got worse. "The money generated by news audiences is flowing primarily to Google and Facebook, and not to the reporters and publishers who produce excellent journalism," says Chavern.

Cicilline says "our democracy is strongest when we have a free, open press that informs citizens, holds public officials accountable, and roots out corruption".

The proposed bill would provide a two-year window for newspaper companies to negotiate fair terms that would flow earned subscription and advertising dollars back to the publishers, while protecting and preserving Americans' right to access quality news. Parameters included in the bill ensure that these negotiations would strictly benefit Americans and news publishers at-large; "not just one or a few publishers".

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