Google may be luckier on media competition bill

Google just ended a week with more headlines than it probably wanted. Some of them were very positive, like last quarter earnings which were up 32% year over year. Some of them were less positive, like the Senate panel’s approval of the Open App Market Act which will now go to the Senate for a vote.

Read more: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves App Store Payments Bill

Then there was another legislative development whose fate is still unknown, but from which Google could still come out unscathed. On Wednesday, the US Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights held a hearing to debate the benefits and risks of the Journalism Preservation and Competition Act (JCPA).

This bill, introduced in both houses last year, essentially establishes temporary four-year antitrust immunity for the media to come together and bargain collectively with Google and Meta.

By allowing media outlets and publishers to bargain collectively with tech giants, including small businesses that would otherwise have no bargaining power, they could increase revenue and ensure the continuation of local journalism and news. High quality.

Although well-intentioned, the bill drew criticism not only from tech giants, as expected, but also from some local news representatives, who argued that the solution to market power acquired by Google and Meta is not to give them more power.

“I strongly support close antitrust scrutiny of technology markets, including in news-related areas. But I advise against the creation of a national news cartel: even in response to the remarkable success of Google and Facebook in capturing advertising markets, and even given the real struggles that many news publishers face today. ‘today,’ Daniel Francis, a former member of the FTC’s antitrust arm, said during his remarks.

He explained that the problem facing the media industry when it comes to digital advertising is not because Google and Facebook are monopsonists – that is, buy-side monopolies – but because they use simply the freedom, provided by US law, to link and preview free content on the Internet. According to him, even if Congress authorizes the negotiation of the collective agreement, it would not revoke the right of any company, such as Google, Meta, Bing, DuckDuckGo or Twitter, to link content to their websites.

The rest of the interventions offered a mixed view on the benefits of the bill, with several of the interviews suggesting that the bill’s purpose is well-intentioned but could nonetheless harm small local outlets.

On the other hand, Jennifer Bertetto, CEO of Trib Total Media, asserted that the “JCPA is a tailor-made solution to help news publishers sit down at the table and negotiate fair terms for the significant value of their content that the platforms use and benefit from. .”

At the heart of the discussion is fair compensation. Google and Meta work to determine a fair amount to pay news publishers as they link and make money from content on their platforms.

Australia passed a similar, not without controversy, bill last year that forces Google and Meta to enter licensing deals with publishers or face the prospect of arbitration if they fail. to an agreement. Canada and the UK are also considering similar legislation.

However, the benefits of this legislation are not straightforward, and it may not find as much bipartisan support as the other two bills recently passed by Senate panels, the Open App Market Act, with a vote of 20 to 2, and the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, with a vote of 16 to 6.

In any case, if the bill is approved, which is not a given, it will not prevent Big Tech companies from linking news on their platforms. It may only cost them a little more money to do so.

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