Here we go again. For the past few years, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has relentlessly pressured Congress to pass her many progressive pet projects. No matter how much Congress and American voters reject these bills, she continues to waste time pushing her problematic and misguided proposals.
This week, Klobuchar successfully rammed the deceptively-titled “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act” (JCPA) through the Senate Judiciary Committee, after her failed attempt last year to sneak it into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a must-pass military funding bill.
The JCPA creates a “temporary” antitrust exemption to allow print, broadcast, or digital news companies to form a legal cartel in negotiations with online platforms that host their content. This media cartel would then negotiate the terms in which digital platforms are allowed to distribute content. If passed, this would allow liberal legacy media outlets to box conservative and independent outlets out of the cartels.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) remained unpersuaded by Klobuchar’s arguments for JCPA, flatly stating that the bill “does not make sense.” By allowing media companies to establish cartels, they will be able to consolidate even greater power. This consolidation of power will allow them to exacerbate the current issues for struggling local news outlets. As the influence and power of larger national news outlets grow, their dominance will become even more pervasive over the current media landscape. As a result, legacy media executives will get to ice out smaller or ideologically diverse companies to maximize profits and their control over public access to the truth. Lee succinctly articulates this point by asserting that “[the bill] will…lead to a distortion of news coverage, favoring large conglomerate publishers over small local publishers.”
The bill’s greatest impacts will benefit already large, powerful news outlets. Senator Klobuchar essentially confirmed this sentiment in her comments, pointing to the growth of The Guardian’s workforce in Australia as a result of a similar bill as one of the bill’s most direct impacts within the country. However, The Guardian was already a top ten media outlet within Australia, with a global reach that its own website describes as having “more than 1.5 million supporters in 180 countries.” In fact, The Guardian advertises itself as having “a clear aim” to be “the world’s leading liberal voice.” The Guardian does not look like a struggling local media outlet. Its success in light of a similar bill does not silence fears of the bill facilitating the growth of a liberal media cartel that will ice out ideologically conservative viewpoints. Rather, it proves that the biggest winners are existing large legacy media outlets with a liberal viewpoint.
The bill would also tie these media executives’ profits to the success or failure of these Big Tech companies. While the bill would extract revenue from technology companies and transfer it to the cartels, the JCPA also strangely protects them in the long-term from warranted media scrutiny. Media executives entrenched within the cartels will collectively control the dissemination of information to the public. These cartels will be incentivized to protect Big Tech from public scrutiny that would reduce their profits. Thus, not only will we be subjected to less diverse news coverage of national news and less local news coverage generally, but we will also have lower quality journalism as media executives become increasingly dependent on these companies.
Lee astutely pointed out that even though the JCPA passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has already indicated that the bill will be dead on arrival once it reaches the House. Instead of wasting time and taxpayer resources further debating a zombie bill like JCPA, Congress should recognize these efforts from Klobuchar as performative posturing for a future presidential run, not legitimate proposals to better our nation’s news media or economy.