Bill to Aid Local News Gets Revamp, New Bipartisan Interest (1)

  • ‘Dark money organizations’ such as RT wouldn’t benefit
  • Klobuchar working with Durbin to schedule consideration

(Adds comment from Klobuchar staff in eighth paragraph.)

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Senators are gearing up to advance a proposal to empower small news organizations to negotiate compensation from technology giants such as Meta Platform Inc.‘s Facebook and Alphabet Inc.‘s Google, people familiar with the discussions said.

Lawmakers since 2018 have been trying to pass protections for small newspapers facing plummeting subscriptions and advertisement revenue. The US — trailing the European Union and Australia — is inching toward passing its own law after senators appeased unions’ concerns and are poised to win greater bipartisan backing for the measure.

The legislation (S. 673), sponsored by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Kennedy (R-La.), would give publishers and broadcasters a time-limited “safe harbor” to negotiate collectively for compensation from online platforms. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) introduced companion legislation (H.R. 1735) in the House.

Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images
A newsstand in New York City on Feb. 8, 2019.

Big tech companies that show articles from small, local news outlets in the US alongside revenue-generating advertisements aren’t currently required to pay them. Fairly compensating such outlets would help keep alive diverse and high-quality reporting, sponsors of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act say.

Since 2004, the US has lost almost 1,800 papers and more than 100 during the coronavirus pandemic.

Google and Facebook declined to comment.

A least three additional Republican senators have shown interest in backing the deal, a Senate aide told Bloomberg Government.

Klobuchar now is working to schedule a markup with Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the people familiar said. Klobuchar’s deputy chief of staff, Nate Evans, confirmed the senator is working to schedule a markup.

Durbin’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under the updated bill, 65% of publishers’ payments from arbitration awards would be directly measured by what they invest in journalists, according to a bill summary obtained by Bloomberg Government. Publishers would have to publicly report how much compensation they get from platforms each year and how they use those funds to support news production, the bill summary states.

The arbitration award and transparency language was added to stop the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America from opposing the legislation, a lobbyist said. More than 100 publications and organizations support the bill.

(The Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, represents employees of Bloomberg Government.)

Dark Money

The latest version also includes a measure to ensure “dark money organizations” such as Russian state-controlled international television network RT, don’t benefit from the bargaining authority, the lobbyist said.

Bill sponsors say an inclusive and neutral definition of providers will ensure viewpoints across the ideological spectrum can negotiate pay.

“Digital journalism provider” is defined in the bill summary as entities that “engage professionals to create, edit, produce, and distribute original content concerning local, national, or international matters of public interest,” among other criteria.

Tech companies would be prohibited from retaliating against publishers by refusing to index content or lowering search rankings, according to the summary.

The bill also would limit compensation negotiations to individual publications — not groups — with 1,500 employees or less, the Wall Street Journal reported previously. Many newspapers are part of groups, such as Gannett Co., Tribune Media Co., or McClatchy Co. Determining eligibility at the publication level regardless of their ownership would allow more news outlets to participate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Maria Curi in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at; Sarah Babbage at

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