Times Chronicle & Public Spirit

Congress has chance to save vital local news

- By Douglas Schoen Douglas Schoen is a longtime Democratic political consultant.”

In the coming weeks, a group of bipartisan Senators will advance a long-overdue reform that is designed to restore fairness to America’s most vital — yet endangered — industries: news, publishing, and journalism.

Co-sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) and Senator John Kennedy (R), the legislatio­n — The Journalism Competitio­n and Preservati­on Act (JCPA) — creates a “safe harbor” for news publishers to negotiate fair terms for use of their content by Big Tech companies on online platforms like Facebook News, Google News, and social media generally.

While local papers have struggled to remain economical­ly viable for years, Big Tech monopolies like Alphabet and Meta — through sites like Google News and Facebook News — have dominated the news and publishing industries by expropriat­ing the work of smaller and local operators.

The worst part? Under current U.S. anti-trust laws, Big Tech’s market manipulati­on is completely legal. The JCPA would change that, and would help usher in a new era of fairness for journalist­s and news publishers alike.

Recent modificati­ons to the bill have increased the chances of its successful passage — including the introducti­on of a measure to placate union concerns as well as a measure to ensure that dark money organizati­ons like the Russian statecontr­olled television network do not inadverten­tly benefit. Currently, Sen. Klobuchar is reportedly working to schedule a bill markup of the JCPA with Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D).

As lawmakers evaluate the JCPA’s practical and political merit leading up to the vote, members of both parties would be wise to consider the findings of my firm’s recent public opinion polling on the subject, which found broad-based support for the JCPA as well as for general reforms to rein in Big Tech and save local journalism.

Having conducted several polls on the subject within the last couple of months — nationally in early April, and statewide in Louisiana and Colorado in late May — on behalf of the News Media Alliance, it’s clear that reining in Big Tech is an enduring hot-button issue for Americans. Importantl­y, Congress passing the JCPA was supported by a strong majority of Americans nationally (70%) when the question was asked in early April, and by similarly strong majorities of both Coloradoan­s (69%) and Louisianan­s (64%) two months later.

Likewise, approximat­ely twothirds of respondent­s in all three surveys said it was important for Congress to pass the JCPA, and roughly 7-in-10 agreed that: “elected officials who oppose the JCPA are allowing Big Tech companies to continue manipulati­ng the news and publishing industries for their own gain, leaving small and local publishers powerless.”

Notably, all three constituen­cies surveyed also indicated that a political candidate’s support for the JCPA could impact their vote in an election. By roughly a four-to-one margin, Americans surveyed would be more likely, rather than less likely, to back candidates for Congress who support the JCPA.

Ultimately, the uniformity of our findings nationally, in Colorado, and in Louisiana is indicative of the momentum behind this issue. Indeed, our national poll revealed widespread public concern over Big Tech companies having too much power in the news and publishing industries (79%) and manipulati­ng these industries for their own gain (78%). The statewide polls yielded similar findings.

The public is also deeply worried about local journalism’s survival, as Americans (83%), Coloradoan­s (86%), and Louisianan­s (79%) broadly believe this is important. Yet, roughly three-quarters of respondent­s agree that Big Tech’s monopoly over the news and publishing industries poses a direct threat to these small and local operators.

Thus, in addition to backing the JCPA specifical­ly, the public also broadly supports Congress acting in a more general way to curb Big Tech’s undue influence over news and publishing in order to make these industries fairer for small and local publicatio­ns.

The collective American public wants to rein in Big Tech, and elected officials from both parties have an opportunit­y to deliver on targeted reforms by advancing the JCPA.

These findings present a callto-action to our leaders who now have a clear mandate from their constituen­ts to rein in Big Tech and save local journalism by passing the JCPA into law.

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