Local journalism bill needs support

Freedom and independence took center stage in the American colonies this summer 247 years ago when 56 brave men signed a document that would have all but meant their execution if arrested by King George’s army. Today, Americans share in the luxury of celebrating those ideals that help define our great nation. Speaking of independence, a bill pending in Congress would support a free, independent press and its vital role in our nation, and we need our state’s congressional delegation to support it.
Now more than ever, we need a robust, independent press. We need journalism that supports civil civic engagement and community-building. Unfortunately, those very news media organizations that do this important journalism are under great financial strain in part because of the Big Tech platforms Google and Facebook.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) would allow news media organizations such as newspapers and broadcast outlets to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook for fair compensation for use of our news content. These Big Tech platforms are the dominant distributors of news content, reaping tremendous financial benefit without fair compensation to those who create the news content. Google and Facebook also capture the majority of U.S. digital advertising revenue, leaving local news providers with scraps. In part, this is driving a decline in the number of bona fide local news outlets across our country.
“For too long, Big Tech has profited from using news content on their platforms, without paying the creators of that content. The JCPA will give small and local publishers a seat at the table and channel critical revenue to them to help sustain the high-quality journalism Americans need and depend on,” said News/Media Alliance President & CEO Danielle Coffey.
South Dakota Newspaper Association and its 105 member newspapers support JCPA. Granted, not every small community newspaper would see a direct financial benefit if JCPA became law, but a rising tide lifts all boats and passage of this bill would help sustain quality journalism at all levels in our country. This legislation is not a government bail-out. There is no taxpayer money involved. This bill would allow a temporary exemption under federal antitrust laws for local journalism providers to collectively negotiate with Google and Facebook.
Is this legislation the only solution for all that ails local journalism in our country? No, but the JCPA bill would be an important piece and it would demonstrate that our government reaffirms the role a free, independent press has in our democratic society. This idea is not unique to the United States. Australia and most recently Canada have approved similar legislation. Facebook is paying Australian news publishers for use of their news content.
The JCPA has bipartisan support. The Senate Judiciary Committee on June 15 approved the bill with a 14-7 vote. We need the JCPA to move forward. Congress needs to act before it is too late.
Again, we urge Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson to support this bill. And we encourage you to communicate with them as well. The independence of a free and robust press in our country may be at stake.
 —David Bordewyk is executive director of the South Dakota Newspaper Association,
which represents the state’s 105 newspapers.

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