Journalism Competition and Preservation Act

Last week, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission approved an application for Commercial Radio Australia to collectively bargain with Google and Facebook over the carriage by these tech platforms of news content from Australian radio broadcasters (press release here, application and approval here).  This approval is an outgrowth of the adoption of the Australian News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code, which authorized bargaining between traditional news media outlets and tech platforms and, if the bargaining is not successful, a mandatory arbitration process to set appropriate royalties to be paid by the tech companies for the use of the news provider’s content.  These actions could be a preview of what could happen in the United States at some point in the future if pending legislation known as The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which we wrote about here, is adopted.

There are, of course, differences between the Australian approach and what has been proposed thus far in the United States. The US bill, while providing an antitrust exemption that would permit collective bargaining with tech companies by groups of traditional media companies, does not provide for any mandatory arbitration process for setting rates if no agreement is reached as to the rates and terms of content carriage by the tech companies.  Without providing any mandatory rate-setting process, if negotiations are not successful, the most significant bargaining chip in the US would be for the local media companies to withhold consent to the use of their content by the tech platforms.  It is interesting to note that, in the application by the Australian broadcasters’ organization for a waiver from their competition (antitrust) laws to allow the collective bargaining, the broadcasters disavowed any boycott of the tech platforms, which presumably would be unnecessary with mandatory arbitration waiting if a voluntary agreement cannot be reached.  In the US, a threat to pull content off tech platforms could become more important, though perhaps more difficult to achieve because of antitrust laws (which may allow collective bargaining but may not permit collective boycotts) and other US laws and policies.
Continue Reading Could Australian Decision Giving Broadcasters the Right to Collectively Bargain with Tech Companies Be a Preview of Things to Come in the US?

A few weeks ago, the news was abuzz with the controversy over an Australian law that would make social media companies and even search engines pay for their making available content originating with traditional media outlets.  While the controversy was hot, there were articles in many general interest publications asking whether that model could work outside Australia – and perhaps whether such a bill could even be adopted in the US.  What has received far less notice in the popular press was a US version of that bill that was recently introduced in Congress to address some of the same issues.  The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021 was not introduced in response to the Australian law, but instead it is an idea that pre-dated the overseas action.  Versions of the US bill have been introduced in prior sessions of Congress, though it never before gained much attention.  But this year’s version has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, has already been the subject of a Congressional committee hearing, and has gained support (including from the National Association of Broadcasters and even the tech company Microsoft).

The intent of these bills, and other similar legislation considered across the world, is to open a new revenue stream for traditional media outlets which cover local news – outlets that have been hit hard by the online media revolution over the last 25 years.  As we have noted in other contexts (see for instance our articles here and here), as huge digital media platforms have developed in this century, these platforms have taken away over half the local advertising revenue in virtually all media markets – revenues that had supported local journalism.  The perception is that this has been done without significantly adding to the coverage of local issues and events in these markets.  We certainly have seen the economics of the newspaper industry severely impacted, with many if not most newspapers cutting staff and local coverage, and even how often the papers are published.  Broadcasting, too, has felt the impact.  Many legislators across the globe have come to the conclusion that these digital platforms attract audiences by featuring content created by the traditional media sources that have been so impacted by online operations.  To preserve and support original news sources, various ways in which the content creators can be compensated for the use of their works, such as the legislation in the US and Australia, are being explored.  We thought it worth looking at proposed legislation in the US and comparing it to the more extensive legislation introduced in Australia, and to highlight some of the issues that may arise in connection with such regulatory proposals.
Continue Reading Making the Tech Giants Pay to Use Traditional Media News Content – Looking at the Legislative Issues