US: Newspapers to bid for antitrust exemption to tackle Google and Facebook

The news industry is banding together to seek a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in an effort to fend off growing competition from Facebook and Google.

Traditional competitors including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as a host of smaller print and online publications, will temporarily set aside their differences this week and appeal to federal lawmakers to let them negotiate collectively with the technology giants to safeguard the industry.

Antitrust laws traditionally prevent companies from forming such an alliance which could see them becoming over-dominant in a particular sector. However, the media companies are hoping that Congress will look favorably on a temporary exemption, particularly given the recent clampdown on the technology industry which saw Google slapped with a US$2.7 billion antitrust fine.

The campaign is led by newspaper industry trade group News Media Alliance and it is intended to help the industry collaborate in order to regain market share from Facebook and Google, which have been swooping in on newspapers’ distribution and advertising revenues.

The two companies currently command 70% of the US$73 billion digital advertising industry in the US, according to new research from the Pew Research Centre. Meanwhile, US newspaper ad revenue in 2016 was US$18 billion from US$50 billion a decade ago.

The News Media Alliance argue that, despite their growing dominance in news distribution, Facebook and Google lack the resources and ability to guarantee the accuracy of reporting upheld by reputable news associations. Facebook in particular came under fire during the 2016 US presidential election when it failed to suitably monitor the news content on its platform and was seen to host unverified articles.

“(Facebook and Google) don’t employ reporters: They don’t dig through public records to uncover corruption, send correspondents into war zones, or attend last night’s game to get the highlights. They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them,” David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, wrote in an opinion piece published Sunday in the Wall Street Journal.

Full Content: Wall Street Journal

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