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JCPA Advocates Plan Sept. Fly-In, Face House Hurdle

Advocates for the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) will kick off a renewed push for the bill’s passage later this month with a fly-in of 100 representatives from newsrooms all over the U.S. to talk to lawmakers, said News Media Alliance President Danielle Coffey in an interview. Supporters are aiming for the bill to have an early reintroduction in September or October -- possibly bolstered by Facebook’s recent blockage of news links in Canada -- but the Republican-controlled House is a major hurdle. “We’re not going to see any antitrust legislation come out of the House Judiciary Committee in the foreseeable future,” said Josh Rogin, Computer & Communications Industry Association's vice president-federal affairs.

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If passed, the JCPA would allow news organizations -- including newspapers and broadcasters -- to band together to negotiate for compensation from tech companies for the use of their content. After going through mark-up in July, the JCPA is “in the mix” and could eventually be passed in 2023 as a rider on bigger bills, an industry lobbyist said. The path to getting through both the House and the Senate isn’t immediately clear, but advocates are optimistic, Coffey told us.

For too long, the unchecked power of Big Tech has devalued local journalism when it is accessed on their platforms,” said NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt in a statement, praising the bill’s “bipartisan support.” The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act “would enable negotiations between media outlets and these digital platforms to strengthen the economic foundation of local news.”

Champions” of the bill such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who introduced it, still “have a very strong interest” in the bill’s passage, Coffey said. She believes the fly-in will have a strong impact on lawmakers because they will be meeting with representatives of the newsrooms that cover them. “You want to pass a law: Do you want anyone in your communities to hear about it?” asked Coffey. “Because if we're not here, how are people finding out?” However, she conceded House Republicans could be an obstacle. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, “is resistant to the measure the way it is now,” Coffey noted. Jordan’s office didn’t comment.

The JCPA is a nonstarter in the House under Republican leadership, opponents of the legislation told us in interviews. Look at the “priorities” of Jordan and House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said Rogin, former chief of staff for ex-Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. Republican leaders are “not hearing from their members that they need to act here,” said Rogin. Massie replaced Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., as top Republican on the subcommittee. Buck introduced the House version of the JCPA with then-House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline, D-R.I., who has since retired. Cicilline told us shortly before leaving office that Buck’s demotion was punishment for his bipartisan efforts on the antitrust front (see 2302020069). Jordan told us Big Tech censorship would be a focus with Massie at the helm.

Coffey and other industry officials see Meta’s removal of news links in Canada earlier this summer after the passage of laws similar to the JCPA as adding weight to their arguments that the market power of Big Tech needs to be checked. “Rather than working to ensure its users have access to trusted news and information, Meta is holding news content on its platform hostage,” said NAB and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in a joint statement in August. Coffey said the removal of links shows the issue is at an inflection point, comparing it to cable channels using broadcast content without compensation before the establishment of retransmission consent, or before a compensation framework was created for streaming music. “There has to be a certain point where everyone sees that there’s a problem,” Coffey said. Meta didn’t comment.

Jordan and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have been vocal opponents of the JCPA, noted Public Knowledge Senior Policy Analyst Lisa Macpherson, a former consumer marketing executive. “Under the current leadership, it would certainly be” a nonstarter in the House, she said. PK doesn’t support tech platforms removing legitimate news from their services, but what’s unfolded in Canada says a lot about the “value exchange” between news publishers and platforms and how wrong the JCPA “gets that value exchange,” she said. It shows “vividly” the value of platform distribution for news organizations, she said. As written, the JCPA will potentially benefit only the largest media organizations because they will set the terms with social media platforms, she said.

The R Street Institute is happy legislators are delaying movement on a similar bill in California, said technology fellow Josh Withrow. California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D) put her bill on hold until 2024. “We’ll see if they take a hint from the ways things are going in Canada,” said Withrow. The primary concern with the JCPA is the establishment of a pseudo link tax, he said: This is “one industry seeing cash to be grabbed from another and using the government to make that happen. It’s fundamentally objectionable on the face of that.”