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With Sen. Cruz’s Help, Big Tech Competition Bill Advances

- Measure Seeks to Level Playing Field

Major legislation that would level the competitive playing field between news content publishers and Big Tech firms cleared a key hurdle last week thanks in part to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who reached across party lines to clarify an amendment he had successfully attached to the measure, but which threatened to derail the effort.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, S. 673, would create a temporary antitrust exemption to allow local broadcasters and certain other digital publishers to jointly negotiate with a dominant online platform regarding access to their content.

Cruz worked with chief bill authors Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, and John Kennedy, R-LA, to reach agreement on changes to his amendment that addressed his concerns while averting political hot button issues.

Thanks to Cruz’s leadership, the measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee with a strong 15-7 bipartisan vote, including all Democratic Senators and four Republicans, including Sens. Cruz and Kennedy, as well as Charles Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“Texas broadcasters are grateful for Sen. Cruz’s leadership on this all-important issue that speaks to our ability to effectively compete in a rapidly changing media landscape,” said TAB Chairman Paul Gleiser, owner/operator of ATW Media, LLC in Tyler.

“Sen. Cruz committed to TAB that he would work with the bill authors to try to address our concerns as we work mightily to preserve local community journalism on-air and in print, and he followed through in an admirable and bipartisan fashion.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, also serves on the panel, but did not support the measure.

As revised, the JCPA would:

  • Empower eligible digital journalism providers—that is, news publishers with fewer than 1,500 exclusive full-time employees and non-network news broadcasters that engage in standard newsgathering practices—to form joint negotiation entities to collectively negotiate with a covered platform over the terms and conditions of the covered platform’s access to digital news content.
  • Require covered platforms—which are online platforms that have at least 50 million U.S.-based users or subscribers and are owned or controlled by a person that has either net annual sales or market capitalization greater than $550 billion or at least 1 billion worldwide monthly active users—to negotiate in good faith with the eligible news organizations.
  • Enable non-broadcaster news publishers to demand final-offer arbitration if their joint negotiation with a covered platform fails to result in an agreement after six months.
  • Create a limited safe harbor from federal and state antitrust laws for eligible digital journalism providers that allows them to participate in joint negotiations and arbitration and, as part of those negotiations, to jointly withhold their content from a covered platform.
  • Prohibit discrimination by a joint negotiation entity or a covered platform against an eligible digital journalism provider based on its size or the view expressed in its content and provide a private right of action for violations of this prohibition.
  • Prohibit retaliation by a covered platform against eligible digital journalism providers for participating in joint negotiations or arbitration and provide a private right of action for violations of this prohibition.
  • Sunset within eight years. 

The NAB indicates the measure will advance to votes in the full Senate and then the House after the Nov. 8 General Election.

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

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