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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios 

The newspaper industry is working with Facebook to launch a new project to help local newspapers beef up their digital subscription efforts, Axios has learned. But that doesn't mean they've made peace.

In fact, the News Media Alliance — a newspaper trade group that's working with Facebook on the subscription project — is simultaneously launching a political action committee to help reward members of Congress for elevating their goals, including an antitrust safe harbor to better compete against Facebook and Google for audience and ad dollars.

Driving the news: How can both be happening at the same time? While the News Media Alliance wants to work with Facebook to bolster subscriptions through the new project — to be called the Local News Subscriptions Accelerator — its president, David Chavern, argues that Facebook (and Google) has a long way to go before presenting a sustainable model for news on platforms.

That means it needs a two-pronged approach of working with platforms and advocating for greater economic change through Congress. "We're saying, 'Thank you, but we're not there yet," says Chavern, in response to Facebook's efforts.

Between the lines: Part of this disparity comes from the split between the way local newspapers and national newspapers work with tech companies. The News Media Alliance, which represents some of the larger national newspapers, feels less dependent on Facebook for its technology tools than some of its local counterparts, which empowers it to take more formalized action against Google and Facebook.

While it's unlikely members of Congress will take swift action, if any, on a safe harbor, the Trump administration generally supports deregulating legacy industries — like broadcast and telecom — to empower them to compete with tech firms that have traditionally avoided regulation.

The big picture: Increased calls for regulation to curb the dominance of Google and Facebook make it easier for NMA to argue for repealing existing media competition laws that prevent news organizations from working together to negotiate better deals with major internet platforms.

  • CNN President Jeff Zucker became the latest high-powered executive Monday to call on regulators to look into Facebook and Google's dominance.
  • Billionaire philanthropist George Soros said last week that he wants "more stringent regulations" on Big Tech. Soros later called Facebook and Google "ever more powerful monopolies."

Facebook has been making a more conscious effort to work with newspapers and digital publishers on bolstering their subscription and monetization efforts through its platform. Executives have conceded that it hasn't been as transparent with working with publishers on tests and experiments in the past, but that it's looking to do more.

  • "We want to go the extra mile," says Campbell Brown, Facebook's head of journalism partnerships. "When I started here, there was only one person on local. Now its the largest news partnerships team we have."

Chavern says he understands Facebook's position and that he's just trying to manage the situation with the tools he has.

  • "Theres no silver bullet. I think they are commercial actors getting best deal they can. And I represent commercial actors trying to get the best deal they can, and to sustain journalism in the future."

Go deeper

35 mins ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."

Updated 4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

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