Cassidy, Klobuchar, Kennedy introduce bill to support local news

Staff Report

U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in an effort to support small, local and independent news publications.

The bipartisan legislation would give the media outlets a level playing field in negotiations with online platforms, Cassidy said in a statement.

Louisiana U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy speaks during an event April 6 at the Lemann Memorial Center in Donaldsonville.

"Our bill supports local news organizations,” Cassidy stated. “Now, Big Tech can use their content, and local news doesn’t benefit. Let’s help the locals!" 

“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,” Kennedy said.

Louisiana U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is shown during a hearing held March 28 in Washington.

Klobuchar, whose father was in the newspaper business, said she has a firsthand understanding of the role a free press plays in strengthening democracy.

“But local news is facing an existential crisis, from ad revenues plummeting and newsrooms across the country closing to artificial intelligence tools taking content. To preserve strong, independent journalism, news organizations must be able to negotiate on a level playing field with the online platforms that dominate news distribution and digital advertising. Our bipartisan legislation ensures that media outlets can band together and negotiate for fair compensation from the Big Tech companies that profit from their news content, allowing journalists to continue their critical work,” Klobuchar said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is shown during a hearing Jan. 24 in Washington.

The three senators were joined by Dick Durbin (D-IL), Steve Daines (R-MT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in introducing the bill.

The act would: 

  • Protect small or independent publications from being discriminated against by digital platforms. The bill would also provide a private right of action for violations of this rule.
  • Prohibit covered platforms from discussing ways to “display, rank, distribute, suppress, promote, throttle, label, filter or curate” content as means of preventing content moderation from influencing the commercial agreement.
  • Not apply to large publishers.
  • 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.