Now in the News: Congress Committed To Fixing That Problem Through JCP

January 27, 2023

Congress Committed To Fixing That Problem Through JCP

Following the re-introduction of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (H.R. 1735 / S. 673) (JCPA) in 2021, the News/Media Alliance and its allies worked to advocate for the bill’s passage during the 117th Congress. The JCPA would allow small and local news publishers to come together to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook for fair compensation for use of their content. News publishers, magazines and broadcasters currently do not have the ability to negotiate deals on their own, as the dominant tech platforms capture the majority of U.S. digital ad revenue, leaving little to reinvest in the production of high-quality journalism.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust hosted a hearing for the JCPA in February of 2022, allowing for substantive conversation on the legislation, and garnering further interest from Congressional leaders. The Alliance and its allies followed up on this hearing by meeting with Congressional staffers and organizing grassroots outreach, resulting in over 2,000 touchpoints on Capitol Hill over the summer. These efforts led to a successful Senate Judiciary Committee markup on September 22, where the JCPA was reported favorably to the Senate floor with a committee vote of 15-7.

Policymakers are motivated to stand up for the vital public institution of journalism and push back against anticompetitive business practices. A thriving press performs a critical role in building and engaging local communities and holding government officials accountable. There is broad agreement in the U.S. – on both sides of the aisle, not only on the Hill but among members the public – that action is needed to protect local journalism. An April 2022 poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Schoen Cooperman Research for the News/Media Alliance found that 70 percent of Americans support Congress passing the JCPA

NewsGuild Asks DOJ To Investigate Block Communications Inc. Purchase Of City Paper

The largest union for journalists in the United States is asking the Department of Justice to investigate the recent acquisition of Pittsburgh City Paper. A subsidiary of Block Communications Inc. — which also owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — bought the alt-weekly earlier this month. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In a letter sent Wednesday afternoon, the NewsGuild-Communication Workers of America urged the DOJ to examine how this purchase could harm the Pittsburgh community. According to NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss, the union is concerned about how it could reduce competition, limit the mobility of newspaper employees and restrict the kinds of stories local journalists can tell.

“The existence of pesky, small news outlets, daily or weekly, that cover issues not normally covered by the incumbent media improves the overall quality of news production for the entire local market,” Schluess wrote. “That vibrancy, in turn, gives readers the information they need to make decisions in their personal and professional lives. It also leads to a more informed citizenry.” He went on to call on the DOJ to probe “the competitive impact of this attempted consolidation of local news.”

Eagle Media, the company that owns the Butler Eagle, sold the paper to Block Communications after purchasing it in 2016. Publisher Ron Vodenichar said running the City Paper from a distance was difficult and costly. In a joint statement with Vodenichar released Jan. 4, the publishers said all City Paper employees will be retained and operate autonomously “continuing to serve as Pittsburgh’s alternative news weekly.” But Schluess pointed out that in an already shrinking news market, the City Paper had carved out space to cover the Block family, owners of Block Communications

DOJ Sues Google, Seeking To Break Up Online Advertising Business

The U.S. Justice Department and eight states Tuesday sued Alphabet’s Google, calling for the breakup of the search giant’s ad-technology business over alleged illegal monopolization of the digital advertising market. “The lawsuit we have filed today seeks to hold Google to account for what we allege are its longstanding monopolies in digital advertising technologies that content creators use to sell ads and advertisers use to buy ads on the open Internet,” the Justice Department’s antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter said in a news conference Tuesday announcing the suit.

New York, California and Virginia were among the states that signed on to the complaint, which was filed in federal court in Virginia.

Google said in blog post that the lawsuit “attempts to pick winners and losers in the highly competitive advertising technology sector. The case “largely duplicates an unfounded lawsuit by the Texas Attorney General, much of which was recently dismissed by a federal court. DOJ is doubling down on a flawed argument that would slow innovation, raise advertising fees, and make it harder for thousands of small businesses and publishers to grow.”

Alphabet’s stock extended declines on the news, dropping as much as 2.5% to touch a session low. The stock slid 23% in the 12 months that ended Monday, underperforming the Nasdaq 100 Index. “No matter the industry and no matter the company, the Justice Department will vigorously enforce our antitrust laws,” Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland said during the news conference.

The lawsuit represents the Biden administration’s first major case challenging the power of one of the nation’s largest tech companies, following through on an investigation that began under former President Trump. It also marks one of the few times that the Justice Department has called for the breakup of a major company since it dismantled the Bell telecom system in 1982

Informed App Attracts Big-Name Publishers To Join Curated Subscription Bundle

A new app bundling together curated stories from some of the world’s biggest publishers is targeting consumers who, its founders believe, would never pay for a single news subscription. The co-founders of Informed are targeting news consumers who have “not enough time, [are] not reading that many articles, overwhelmed by the sheer amount that’s out there” and want the best, most important stories cherry-picked for them. So as distinct from existing news bundlers, like PressReader, Informed does not offer full access to particular titles.

Co-founder Martin Kaelble told Press Gazette their offering would not take people away from existing news publishers’ subscriptions. This means Informed is not for, as Kaelble put it, “news junkies” or “content nerds” who will prefer to have their own subscriptions and access to a full newspaper. “It sounds a bit romantic, but we want to save quality journalism,” he said.

Informed, which went live in November and costs £51.99 per year or £6.99 per month, sells itself as allowing people to access “world-class journalism from premium publishers, curated by editors and experts”. The Financial Times, New York Times, Economist, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Telegraph, Der Spiegel, The Independent and Foreign Policy have all done deals to allow their content to appear on Informed

American Journalism Project Announces $3.25 Million In Grants To Three Local, Nonprofit News Organizations

The American Journalism Project announced its first three new grants of 2023 to nonprofit news organizations that aim to reach new audiences and cover critical issues concerning communities in North Carolina, Fort Worth, Texas and Nebraska. This brings the American Journalism Project’s portfolio of grantees to 36 organizations and total investments made to more than $40 million. Each of these organizations have ambitious plans to grow original local reporting by investing in their revenue and operations capacities.

American Journalism Project’s new investments in Enlace Latino NC, Fort Worth Report and Nebraska Journalism Trust will give these organizations funding and strategic support to significantly grow their revenue as they expand their organizations into local communities.

“At a moment when people need trusted sources of information, local news is in decline across the country, leaving people without reliable sources of news on the issues that affect their communities,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “Each of these organizations is working to close news and information gaps, in order to bolster their community and in turn help democracy thrive.”