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Key Congressional Panel Takes Up Big Tech Dominance

- Journalism Competition Bill Re-Filed

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce today is holding one of two hearings slated this month to focus on holding Big Tech companies accountable by reforming Section 230, with the second set for Dec. 9 exploring various proposals to enhance transparency and promote online safety.

Just a week before the hearings were announced, Congressional leaders of both parties concerned about Big Tech’s increasing dominance in advertising and use of algorithms that undermine visibility of local news content reintroduced a related measure to ensure the viability of local newsrooms.

HR 1735, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, would allow broadcasters and other news publishers to collectively negotiate with dominant digital platforms regarding the terms on which their content may be distributed online.

The measure is co-authored by Reps. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, and Ken Buck, R-Colorado. To date, Reps. Doris Matsui, D-California, and Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida, have signed on as co-sponsors.

Texas Lawmakers Hold Sway
Four Texas lawmakers from Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth serve on the Energy and Commerce committee, and TAB is working with each office to share broadcasters’ experiences on these fronts and encourage them to support HR 1735.

The lawmakers include:

  • Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth
  • Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville
  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston
  • Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston

Loss of Revenue and Control
Big Tech giants exert enormous influence over what online content is eligible to be monetized and are using local news content to grow their revenues while draining local media markets of the advertising revenues needed to sustain local journalism.

Despite news organizations’ efforts to diversify their distribution channels, the tech platforms control not only the share of revenue they retain, but also the amount passed on to content providers, and no news organization is large enough to exercise negotiating leverage with Big Tech.

Beyond diverting advertisers and much-needed revenue away from local broadcasters, the digital platforms also control the algorithms and other technologies that power search and discovery.

These tools and unilateral decisions by online platforms impede local journalists’ ability to connect with their audiences online by changing the rankings of search results, favor certain news sources over others and often steer users toward controversial content over high-quality journalism.

A BIA Advisory Services research analysis commissioned by NAB and released in May estimates local TV newscasts alone lose about $1.873 billion annually from Google Search and Facebook News Feeds.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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