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Google and Facebook erode local media while using news content for free

Opinion: Google and Facebook pay to allow other types of content, but have refused to fairly compensate news outlets critical to our work. A bill in Congress would change that.

Quality local journalism is essential to creating an informed and engaged public and ensuring a thriving democracy. But local journalism has for years been a victim of mainstream Big Tech practices.

Google and Facebook use – and profit from – our news content and audiences, but they don’t return anything to news publishers. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to support the Journalism Preservation and Competition Act.

News is in greater demand now than at any time in recent history. From the devastating blows of COVID-19 to the reignited social justice movement and the explosive 2020 US presidential election and its tumultuous aftermath, people want to know how these and other events affect their daily lives.

Yet the local news publishers who provide this invaluable information are struggling in an online environment dominated by a few big tech platforms.

Local news can’t compete with Big Tech

Tech platforms have been allowed to get bigger and bigger, wielding their power and influence in ways that stifle competition and eat away at news publishers’ revenues.

The term “Big Media” is rumored, but Google and Facebook generated nearly four times the revenue of all US news media (TV, print and digital) in 2018, and these companies have grown significantly. increased since.

These two companies alone currently attract approximately 80% of digital ad spend and 45% of all ad spend in the United States.

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The system is stacked against news editors. Google and Facebook pay to allow music and many types of content, but they have refused to fairly compensate creators of critical journalism. For this reason, over the past two years we have seen at least 300 news publications shut down, with more than 6,000 journalists fired.

Some national news outlets may be doing well, but local and statewide news publishers, who provide the information that supports communities, are being pushed out. If we don’t quickly find a solution for local journalism, there won’t be any left.

Without news, misinformation thrives

We’ve already seen what happened in Australia earlier this year when Facebook removed information from its feed in response to a bill that would require them to pay publishers for their content. In just two days, the void where news once appeared was quickly filled with misinformation and fake news. We cannot afford to learn what a world would be like without quality journalism.

Fortunately, Facebook reinstated the news and legislation passed in Australia. Today, the rest of the world is following in his footsteps and moving towards a new, fairer compensation system for publishers. After all, the platforms compensate music publishers and other creators.

Now is high time for them to reward those who deliver true grassroots journalism.

The government cannot regulate news under the First Amendment, but Facebook and Google are de facto regulators, deciding what content people see and when. They have undervalued quality news content and as a result, the news ecosystem has become increasingly confusing and unhealthy.

The solution: seek fair compensation

We have the solution that will give all forms of news media a decent chance to get a fair return for their work and check the power of government and Big Tech.

Local news publishers just want to be able to come together to fight for their future. Ironically, however, current antitrust laws actually protect Big Tech from publishers who take organized action.

To help resolve this crisis, Arizona’s congressional delegation must support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (also known as the Safe Harbor Bill), which would give news publishers the ability to seek fair compensation. for the use of their content, and that would allow them to continue to invest in the critical newsgathering and reporting on which Americans depend.

With the passage of this bill, all news publishers, especially local publishers, could finally ask technology platforms for the compensation they need and deserve.

We applaud a bipartisan group of members of Congress – including Representative Raúl Grijalva – who co-sponsored this effort. But every member of Congress should recognize that the future of local journalism is worth fighting for.

The Arizona Republic Editorial Board has adapted and endorsed this opinion from the News Media Alliance. What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor to weigh in.