The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act,” legislation that would create an antitrust exemption for establishment media companies. This would allow liberal news publishers to form a cartel to collectively bargain with Big Tech while cutting conservative outlets out of the deal.
If implemented, the JCPA would increase censorship of conservative voices and harm independent journalism. Republicans should not vote to create an antitrust exemption for the largest media companies that uniformly disdain conservatives.
Antitrust law has been in force in the United States since the Sherman Act of 1890. The broad goal of antitrust law is to promote competition in the U.S. economy and promote the welfare of American consumers.
For various reasons, a select few industries and sectors are exempt from antitrust law. For example, Major League Baseball has had an antitrust exemption since 1922 when the Supreme Court said it was “not commerce.” Congress explicitly exempted labor unions from antitrust law in the Clayton Act, allowing workers to collectively bargain with employers.
The JCPA creates an 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 implemented, this would allow liberal outlets like CNN and the New York Times to form a cartel while cutting conservative and independent outlets out of negotiations.
The left’s narrative is that Big Tech companies are squashing traditional journalism, especially local newspapers. In reality, global newspaper circulation has been on the decline since 1989, long predating platforms like Facebook or Google. 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. The bill permits news companies to exclude smaller competitors that are not “similarly situated” to benefit from negotiated terms.
If implemented, the JCPA will lead to a select few media companies to negotiate favorable deals with tech platforms, accelerating media consolidation and squashing smaller independent outlets. While proponents claim that the bill would bolster local journalism, JCPA’s vague language would undermine local journalism by empowering the biggest outlets to silence independent and conservative voices.