March 10 (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers led by Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative David Cicilline introduced legislation on Wednesday aimed at making it easier for news organizations to negotiate collectively with platforms like Google and Facebook.
The bills introduced in the House and Senate - called the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021” - come not long after Facebook Inc had a pitched battle with Australia over how much publishers should make from their social media pages.
The House of Representatives Judiciary antitrust panel, which Cicilline chairs, will hold a hearing on the matter on Friday.
SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS
Senator John Kennedy and Representative Ken Buck, both Republicans, said they will sponsor the bills. Klobuchar and Cicilline are both Democrats and were joined by Democratic Representative Mark DeSaulnier as sponsors. Other supporters include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE BILL?
The current draft of the bill would benefit any print, broadcast, or digital news organization with a dedicated editorial staff that publishes at least on a weekly basis. At least 25% of their output should be original content.
WHO STANDS TO POTENTIALLY LOSE BARGAINING POWER?
The draft defines online content distributors as companies with at least 1 billion monthly active users that display, distribute or direct users to news articles, which is widely understood to include Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google.
CONTENTS OF THE BILLS
The bills would allow print, broadcast or digital news organizations to work together to win better deals from Facebook and Google during a four-year period, when they would not be subject to antitrust laws.
The 2021 bills would require the negotiations to aid news publishers generally rather than a small number.
A version of the U.S. bills had previously been introduced in 2019. The new version includes news broadcasters.
Social media companies use news to attract users and have been accused by news publishers of not sharing enough advertising revenue with them. The legislation could boost revenues.
The news industry is struggling, with employment at U.S. newspapers down by half since 2008 amid tumbling advertising revenue and changing media habits, according to data from Pew Research.
WHAT HAPPENED IN AUSTRALIA?
During the fight, Facebook blacked out Australian news pages for a week and only restored them once the government granted concessions. It also promised a $1 billion investment in the news industry.
A new law in Australia made it the first nation where a government arbitrator can set the price Facebook and Google pay domestic media to show their content if private negotiations fail.
Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker