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Newspapers turn to lobbying against Facebook and Google

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Senior executives from 7 major newspaper publishing companies will head to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to convince lawmakers to do something about the dominance of tech companies over content creators, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: This will be just the 2nd time that the newspaper industry has sent members to formally lobby members of Congress. It speaks to the major increase in lobbying efforts that the newspaper industry has used in recent years to combat the economic decline of its industry.

The big picture: "Our belief is that the current antitrust laws don’t allow us to work together," says Timothy Knight, CEO of Tribune Publishing Company. "I view what we’re trying to do as rethinking how the game is played."

"Our challenge is that this industry has no history of publishers talking to members about their businesses because there weren’t really any federal issues for them to lobby for a long time. The old print model was lucrative. But as we look at the future of news, we have to build advocacy muscle."
— David Chavern, President and CEO News Media Alliance

Driving the news: Leaders from The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, Tribune Publishing Company, News Corp, Star Tribune, Gannett, The Post and Courier in Charleston and Philadelphia Media Network will meet with lawmakers one-on-one to rally support for the News Media Alliance's anti-trust safe harbor bill and to educate members about the economic plight of the newspaper industry.

  • The focus will be on convincing lawmakers, especially in the Senate, that the dominance of Google and Facebook is hindering newspapers' ability to build to build a sustainable digital future for journalism. News publishers will aim to meet with representatives whose papers are in their districts.
  • In the House, they will meet with Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Lou Correa (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Ben Cline (R-VA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
  • In the Senate, they will meet with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Patrick Toomey (R-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

What they're saying: The papers want Congress to move quickly on passing their safe harbor bill so that they have the leverage to demand more money for their content from Google and Facebook.

  • Chavern notes that Facebook's new “News Tab” proposal really only highlights newspapers' need for a Safe Harbor from antitrust laws. "Facebook has worked hard to ensure that no single local publisher has any material leverage in these negotiations," he says.
  • They also want more leverage to increase branding awareness of news publishers on Big Tech platforms and to increase data sharing between platforms and publishers. Companies like Facebook have worked to improve in this area, but publishers think more can be done.

The bottom line: The newspaper industry should have more success this time around than when they introduced the safe harbor bill in 2017, given the increase in scrutiny in Big Tech by lawmakers over the past year.

Go deeper: Newspapers introduce the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to remove The Washington Post from the list of newspapers that attended.