Countervailing Coordination Rights in the News Sector Are Good for the Public (A Response to Professor Yun)

June 2019

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Countervailing Coordination Rights in the News Sector Are Good for the Public (A Response to Professor Yun) By Sanjukta Paul & Hal Singer1

Professor John Yun’s recent CPI Column addressing Reps. Cicilline’s and Collins’ proposed Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (“JCPA”) as legalizing “news media cartels” is a virtually perfect document of the reflexivity of modern antitrust’s condemnation of horizontal coordination beyond firm boundaries. This rigidity results in an accommodation of dominance by a few powerful tech firms. If anything, the JCPA does not go far enough to liberalize coordination among newspaper publishers and other “news content creators” to benefit a healthy news ecosystem, although it would be a step in the right direction.

The key factual findings upon which the bill is based are three. First, according to a Pew survey, most Americans get news from a handful of online platforms, whether a search engine (Google) or a social media platform (Facebook or Google’s YouTube). Second, dominant platforms typically dictate the terms of the relationships between themselves and news content creators, both in terms of splitting advertising revenues and in terms of the conditions under which readers will see certain content in the first place. Third, newspapers’ and other news outlets’ revenues have fallen drastically during the same period that their audiences have increasingly transitioned to reading online. Except f…

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