The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation on Thursday that would give news organizations the power to jointly bargain against Meta, Google and other online platforms for a greater share of online advertising revenue.
The legislation would create an antitrust exemption allowing radio and TV broadcasters, as well as small news outlets with fewer than 1,500 employees, to “band together” and arrest the decline of local journalism in cities and states across the country, said its lead co-sponsors, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy.
The concept, a version of which became law in Australia in 2021 and since been proposed in numerous countries, has been vigorously opposed by tech giants who in some cases have threatened to pull news content from their platforms over the legislation.
Meta and Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The measure cleared the committee by a vote of 14-7. But it faces an uncertain future on the Senate floor.
One member of the committee, California Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, voted against the bill Thursday and vowed to block any future floor vote on the legislation until lawmakers make several changes.
Padilla said the legislation doesn’t do enough to ensure that actual journalists in local newsrooms will benefit from the bargaining, as opposed to hedge funds and publication owners. He also raised concerns that the bill as written could allow online platforms such as Google to charge individual internet users each time they attempt to share or click on a link to a news article, a practice Padilla warned would be harmful to the internet.
“This bill, as written, does nothing to guarantee the protection or pay of the journalists and media workers that we’re claiming to try to protect,” Padilla said. “For us to ignore them while claiming to be fighting for them is absurd.”
Several other senators echoed Padilla’s remarks on Thursday, including Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff, Peter Welch and Cory Booker.
Kennedy and Klobuchar argued that the bill — which had previously passed out of the committee during the last Congress, in 2022 — is urgently necessary in light of the closure of thousands of local newspapers nationwide since the rise of online platforms.
“We have small towns in all of our states with news organizations that cover everything from what’s happening in the city council to reports of the local high school football and volleyball games to informing citizens that a flood is coming,” Klobuchar said. “That kind of reporting … is being undermined right now because, in a very tough market, these news reporters and news organizations are not getting the share of the revenue that they should get.”
Kennedy urged colleagues to set aside their other views on tech platforms and news media.
“This bill is not about whether or not you like social media,” Kennedy said. “This bill is not about whether or not you like what is happening in American news media today. This bill is about creative content. That’s all it’s about. And whether we respect creative content and value it, or whether we do not.”