As the Senate Judiciary Committee Prepares to Mark Up JCPA, Experts Detail the Bill’s Many Flaws

Washington, D.C. (06/14/2023) – The Senate Judiciary Committee is prepared to mark up the revised version of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) on Thursday, yet the text they are prepared to debate closely resembles the same failed legislation from the previous Congress. Under the JCPA, leading digital services would be compelled to distribute and subsidize online content publishers  at prices set by a government-mandated panel of arbitrators.

Ahead of that hearing, it’s important to remember why experts warned Congress against passing the legislation.

According to the Disruptive Competition Project (September 1, 2022):

“There are numerous reasons why this effort is misguided. First, it is constitutionally unsound in multiple ways.

Second, it prohibits content moderation practices that are used to remove hate speech and fight misinformation online.

Third, the bill runs afoul of existing U.S. copyright law, with a ‘savings clause’ too narrow to save anything.

Fourth, the JCPA remixes two failed 20th century competition policies: it grants a special interest antitrust exemption in a government-guided effort to make prices subjectively “fair”. Yet, antitrust exemptions have historically fallen flat, including one specifically given to journalism producers, and the government’s New Deal foray in “fairness” regulation for pricing is widely regarded as a disaster. 

Finally, national and international experience shows that special treatment for news publishers has done little for independent journalists and instead resulted in government-mandated negotiations controlled by large and influential publishers.”

From twenty-one wide-ranging organizations focused on protecting democracy and democratic values (September 2, 2022): 

“Historically, antitrust exemptions have not accomplished beneficial goals, and instead have harmed competition and consumers, entrenched existing power structures and increased codependence between industry incumbents. The JCPA will cement and stimulate consolidation in the industry and create new barriers to entry for new and innovative models of truly independent, local journalism.”

From Americans for Tax Reform (December 5, 2022):

“Digitization of the news and the rise of social media has led consumers to look outside traditional outlets for their news. This competition in the news industry has benefited conservatives, who now have unprecedented opportunity to get their message out without depending on traditional biased news outlets. The JCPA risks undermining this progress by empowering establishment media companies, traditionally biased against conservatives, to collude when negotiating with Big Tech platforms.

From CCIA (September 22, 2022), per a statement from CCIA President Matt Schruers: 

“The JCPA continues to be an unprecedented government overreach.  It encourages the creation of a media cartel which will impose link taxes, and it threatens to hamstring digital services’ efforts to moderate dangerous content with ‘must-carry’ obligations. While objective journalism is critical to informing voters, inserting federal regulators into private sector business negotiations, mandating carriage of what the government thinks is ‘news,’ and promoting cartels is an irresponsible way to encourage an independent and robust news media.”

To read more about the JCPA and the objections senators have raised about the bill, click here

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