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Bipartisan group of lawmakers backs bill 'to save local news'

Bipartisan group of lawmakers backs bill 'to save local news'

A bill that would allow news outlets to bargain with tech platforms over the distribution of their content was reintroduced in both chambers by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is being touted as a way to “save local news” and comes as lawmakers push forward with broader efforts to rein in the market power of the top tech companies.

It follows the passage of an Australian law late last month that forces tech giants to pay publishers for content and subjects the tech companies to mandatory price arbitration if a deal cannot be reached. 

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The Australian bill initially faced fierce pushback from top tech companies, including Facebook and Google. Facebook even implemented a restriction on news content in Australia, but later reversed after last-minute negotiations with the Australian government.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would not go quite as far as the Australian approach.

It would establish a temporary four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for news outlets that allows publishers to negotiate collectively with the digital content distributors, such as Google and Facebook.

The bill was reintroduced in the House by House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David CicillineDavid CicillineRepublicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Washington keeps close eye as Apple antitrust fight goes to court Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube execs to testify at Senate hearing on algorithms | Five big players to watch in Big Tech's antitrust fight MORE (D-R.I.), subcommittee ranking member Rep. Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one MORE (R-Colo.) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnierMark James DeSaulnierOvernight Health Care: CDC says three feet of distance safe in schools | Surging COVID-19 cases in Europe, Brazil signal warning for US | Biden jabs Trump in first visit to CDC Democrats unveil bill to prevent members of the Sackler family from evading lawsuits through bankruptcy Bipartisan group of lawmakers backs bill 'to save local news' MORE (D-Calif.). A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning Democrats hit crucial stretch as filibuster fight looms Strengthen CBP regulations to reduce opioid deaths MORE (D-Minn.), head of the Judiciary subcommittee on competition policy, antitrust and consumer rights, and Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).

“This bill will give hardworking local reporters and publishers the helping hand they need right now, so they can continue to do their important work,” Cicilline said in a statement. 

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Buck similarly said the bill is an “important start to remedying the results of Google, Facebook, and other’s anticompetitive conduct” toward news outlets. 

Klobuchar said the legislation would help “improve the quality of reporting” by giving outlets a “fighting chance when negotiating for fair treatment by the digital platforms.”

When Klobuchar and Kennedy introduced the bill in the previous Congress, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (Ky.) was one of three Republican co-sponsors.

The reintroduction of the bill comes ahead of two antitrust hearings this week, one in the Senate on Thursday and one in the House the following day.

Microsoft President Brad Smith, who wrote a blog post last month urging the U.S. to adopt a policy similar to Australia’s, is scheduled to testify at the House hearing.

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David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, which has strongly backed the legislation, is also scheduled to testify Friday.

They will be joined by Emily Barr, president of the Graham Media Group and television board chair of the National Association of Broadcasters, and Jonathan Schleuss, president of NewsGuild-CWA. More witnesses will be announced, according to the subcommittee.

Updated at 1:36 p.m.