SCHOEN: Congress Can Save The Press From Big Tech’s Iron Grip. Here’s How

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3 mins read
A view of the east steps of the United States Capitol Building.

SCHOEN: Congress Can Save The Press From Big Tech’s Iron Grip. Here’s How

Douglas Schoen on August 27, 2022

Big Tech controls more and more of the news and information we read. Although Big Tech platforms employ few, if any, journalists, most Americans read news on large tech platforms, such as Facebook News and Google News. Profits and ideology motivate Big Tech managers more than promoting a free press, so Big Tech often fails to fairly compensate the small and local news outlets whose stories appear on their platforms.

Thanks to Big Tech’s dominance, many small and local news outlets — including conservative media sites — have shuttered. According to Pew Research, newspaper circulation has dropped by nearly half since 2000, with 31 million fewer daily newspapers in circulation in 2020. Pew found that the advertising revenue of the nation’s newspapers fell from $49.4 billion in 2005 to an estimated $9.6 billion in 2020.

During this same time, Google’s advertising revenue rose from $6.1 billion to $146 billion. Google and Facebook dominate the digital marketplace, setting the rules for news publishers and determining how journalism is displayed, prioritized and monetized.

Since Big Tech hoards data, local papers can’t improve their advertising capabilities and compete with Facebook and Google. Against these odds, it’s impossible for small and local news to challenge Big Tech’s dominance.

Without intervention, more small and local news publications will go out of business, and many conservative and diverse voices will lose their news platforms. According to Northwestern, more than a fifth of Americans live in news deserts in 2022. Facebook is increasingly filling the void with untrustworthy sources and becoming America’s de facto local news source.

Now, a broad coalition of Americans are sounding the alarm on Big Tech’s influence over the news media — and they want Congress to take action.

Recent polling by Schoen Cooperman Research — conducted among a representative sample of U.S. adults and commissioned by News Media Alliance — reveals widespread concern surrounding Big Tech’s power and manipulative practices, especially regarding Big Tech’s domination of small and local news outlets.

Nearly 4-in-5 Americans are concerned that Big Tech companies have too much power over the news and publishing industries (79%) and manipulate these industries for their own gain (78%). Furthermore, three-in-four Americans agree that “Big Tech’s monopoly over the news and publishing industries is a threat to the free press and unfair to publishers, especially to small and local outlets” (76%).

The good news is new proposed legislation, the Journalism, Competition, and Preservation Act (JCPA), would help save small and local news outlets. The JCPA would provide a legal basis for small and local news publishers — including many conservative media outlets–to negotiate fair terms for the use of their content by Big Tech companies — and thus, would demonstrably curb the economic and political power of these Big Tech companies.

When respondents were asked about the JCPA, they overwhelmingly supported the bill.

7-in-10 Americans support Congress passing the JCPA (70%) and believe it is vital for Congress to pass the JCPA (64%) after reading a brief descriptionJo of the bill. By a four-to-one margin, U.S. adults would be more likely, rather than less likely, to back a candidate for Congress who supported the JCPA.

The JCPA is approaching a Senate Judiciary Committee markup following the August recess, and it’s imperative Congress takes action because Americans’ concern about Big Tech’s role in the news business is part of voters’ broader concerns about Big Tech. Most Americans are concerned about the economic and political power of Big Tech companies (74%), and they support increased government regulations on Big Tech companies to curb their economic and political power (63%).

Support for the JCPA is not limited to one demographic or political group. A vast coalition of Americans wants to see the bill passed. In a time of increasing divisions in America, the JCPA is one of the rare bills that unites voters. For the past four decades, I have worked in opinion research and have rarely seen a bill garner so much support.

Across the board, Americans understand the severity of Big Tech’s threat. More importantly, Americans are united in curbing Big Tech’s undue power and profiteering in the news and publishing industries.

The JCPA is essential legislation to protect the free press and conservative and diverse voices. Congress must listen to Americans, protect small and local news outlets, and pass the JCPA.

Douglas E. Schoen is a Democratic pollster and strategist. He is the author of “The Political Fix: Changing the Game of American Democracy, From the Grass Roots to the White House.”

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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