Local journalism, a cornerstone of democracy and a vital source of information for communities across the country, is facing an existential crisis.

With less than four weeks left in this Congress, now is the time for the Senate to pass the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. The JCPA was favorably reported out of committee on Sept. 22 with strong bipartisan support. The act would require Big Tech to compensate small and local outlets for the use of their content.

Big Tech benefits tremendously from journalism content, yet refuses to pay local publishers fairly for the content that fuels their platforms. As a result, local papers are being replaced by tech platforms using black-box algorithms designed to keep users inside their walled gardens – all while charging exorbitant ad fees that consume 70% of the nation’s advertising revenue.

Since 2000, U.S. newspaper circulation has dropped by half, with 31 million fewer daily newspapers in circulation in 2020. The vast majority of U.S. counties with no regular newspaper are in rural areas. Despite record online audiences since news outlets transitioned to digital, revenue has drastically declined.

The tech giants have built their empires by profiting off of the hard work of journalists without fairly compensating them. As local publications struggle to stay afloat, Big Tech has only doubled down on its anti-competitive practices, further consolidating their control over the flow of information.

The JCPA would bring about much-needed change, imposing severe penalties on the tech platforms that do not negotiate with publishers in good faith. The bill has a limited scope of six years to address a broken marketplace, while the broader competitive landscape is fixed through other legislation and the courts.


The JCPA would also incentivize publishers to hire more journalists and protect our constitutional freedoms of speech and the press. The bill’s scope is limited to compensation and would not allow for negotiations around display of news content – it would serve only to ensure fair compensation for local news outlets. The act has strict transparency requirements on the terms of each agreement reached between tech platforms and journalism providers and would establish clarity in how news outlets spend the funds they receive.

News publishers around the world are already being compensated by Big Tech. Australia passed a similar policy last year, the News Media Bargaining Code, which has produced significant revenue (billions of dollars, if translated to the U.S. market) for hundreds of publications of all sizes.

One Sydney journalism professor noted that she hadn’t seen her industry so financially robust in decades. There are so many open positions for reporters that they cannot all be filled, a signal of the improved economic health of the industry. The swift and clear successes of the Australian Code – and efforts in other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union – should serve to encourage the passage of the JCPA in the United States.

Thousands of hometown papers from across the political spectrum, as well as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, support the act. Moreover, in these highly polarized times, polling data found that 70% of Americans support it.

Local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse. The time to take action is dwindling. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.

The Senate must advance the JCPA to the Senate floor for a vote before the end and restore fairness to local journalism – one of the most important checks and balances we have against corporate power and government corruption – before it’s too late.

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