Louisiana senators unveil bill supporting independent news publishers

Staff Report

Louisiana Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) have joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in supporting small, local, and independent news publications.

The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would give publications a level playing field in negotiations with Big Tech platforms that often prevent them from profiting from their online platforms, according to a news release from Kennedy.

He joined Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), along with Senate and House Judiciary Committee Chairs Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) in releasing a revised version of the act.

The JCPA removes legal obstacles in order to permit small and mid-sized news organizations to negotiate jointly for compensation from digital platforms, including Facebook and Google, that access their content without allowing them to profit from their journalism, according to the release. The legislation also allows news publishers to demand arbitration if they reach an impasse in negotiations with digital platforms. This bill would cover Louisiana’s major newspapers.

“Local papers - especially the independent papers in Louisiana - are the heart and soul of journalism, and they break the news that millions of Americans rely on every day. However, tech giants like Facebook and Google are hammering local publications by keeping them from making a profit on Big Tech platforms—and it’s killing local journalism. This bill supports the little guy by allowing local news providers to better negotiate with tech companies for the earnings they deserve,” stated Kennedy.

The JCPA would:

  • Protect small or independent publications, including those that express conservative viewpoints, from being discriminated against by digital platforms. The bill would also provide a private right of action for violations of this rule.
  • Not apply to large publishers, including large mainstream outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
  • Block retaliation against eligible digital journalism providers for participating in joint negotiations or arbitration and provide a private right of action for violations of this prohibition. 
  • Help independent, local or conservative online news publishers with less than 1,500 full-time employees and non-network news broadcasters to negotiate jointly with a covered digital outlet over the terms and conditions of the outlet’s access to digital news content. 
  • Require covered platforms to include those 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 digital news publications to demand final-offer arbitration if a joint negotiation with a covered platform does not 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.
  • Sunset within eight years.

Sens. Cassidy, Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cynthia Lummus (R-Wyo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) are cosponsors of the JCPA.