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Congress should support antitrust safe harbor legislation for newspapers | Opinion

Now is the time for our representatives to prove that they care about the future of news.

A copy of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution sits near Independence Park.
A copy of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution sits near Independence Park.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Information provided by news publishers is essential to our democracy. And now more than ever, it's important to remind our political leaders of the critical role we play in society.

In the upcoming midterm elections, much is at stake. News consumption skyrockets, yet newspapers have experienced years of revenue decline. We need leaders in Congress who will aid us in not only supporting our editorial independence, but also our financial independence – we cannot continue to be the voice of the people if we can no longer invest in delivering high-quality news.

Today, in an effort to secure that independence, we call upon our senators and representatives to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2018, which would help create an antitrust safe harbor for the news publishing industry to be able to collectively negotiate with the tech platforms. The bill would provide a time-limited period in which news publishers who produce original content and hire reporters can negotiate collectively and withhold content.

For the better part of a century, news publishers have relied on advertising revenue to financially support in-depth investigative reporting and high-quality local coverage. But while Google and Facebook have allowed information to spread faster and farther than ever before, they've also stepped in between publishers and readers and broken apart the basic economics of the news industry. Not only do those two companies attract the vast majority of all digital advertising revenue, they also actively and purposefully manage what kinds of news people are exposed to and when.

An antitrust safe harbor as proposed in the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act would provide a four-year window for newspaper companies to negotiate fair terms with the platforms that would flow earned subscription and advertising dollars generated from their content back to the publishers, while protecting and preserving Americans' right to access quality news. Parameters included in the bill ensure that these negotiations would strictly benefit Americans and news publishers at-large, not just one or a few publishers. It is a pro-market, limited government solution to a critical problem.

We are not the only ones being harmed by the duopoly – our readers have the right to demand a more diversified, vibrant digital landscape, and continued access to quality journalism. Now is the time for our representatives to join us and show that they, too, care about the future of the digital landscape – and the future of news.

David Chavern is president and CEO of the News Media Alliance.