A majority of voters in Washington support federal legislation to empower media outlets to obtain fair and reasonable compensation for their news content from Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook, the Northwest Progressive Institute’s most recent survey of the Evergreen State electorate has found.
55% of 773 likely general election voters in Washington interviewed earlier this month said they strongly or somewhat agreed that big tech companies like Google and Facebook should be obligated to pay media publishers for news content. Only 17% somewhat or strongly disagreed, and 27% were not sure.
Our question referenced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, proposed by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
This year’s JCPA, S.1094, has fifteen cosponsors, including Republican senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted just last week to advance the bill, with fourteen senators in favor and seven opposed, reviving discussion of it.
But even if it gets full consideration and a vote out of the Senate, the House is likely to bury it. As Deadline noted in its reporting on the committee vote, Kevin McCarthy is on record as staunchly opposed to the legislation.
Many progressive organizations also consider it deeply flawed, and oppose it.
The stated purpose of the JCPA is “to provide a temporary safe harbor for publishers of online content to collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms regarding the terms on which content may be distributed.” Last year’s version, S.673, was summarized as follows (there’s no summary for S.1094 yet):
This bill sets out a process through which certain broadcast or digital news providers may collectively negotiate with covered online platforms (e.g., social media companies) regarding use of the news providers’ content by the platforms.
Specifically, the bill authorizes an eligible provider (e.g., one with no more than 1,500 full-time employees and nonnetwork news broadcasters that engage in specified news practices) to jointly form an entity with other eligible providers to negotiate the pricing, terms, and conditions by which certain online platforms use the providers’ content. A covered platform is generally one that (1) has at least 50 million monthly domestic users, and (2) is owned or controlled by a person with either sales or a market capitalization that exceeds a specified amount or at least one billion monthly users worldwide.
The bill establishes requirements concerning the formation, governance, operation, and termination of the joint negotiation entity. It also exempts from antitrust laws certain actions by a joint negotiation entity (e.g., providers jointly denying a platform’s access to the providers’ content).
The bill outlines requirements governing the conduct of the negotiations by, for example, requiring the parties to negotiate in good faith. Additionally, the bill provides for private rights of action if the requirements for a negotiation are not met and establishes requirements for arbitration in limited circumstances.
The Government Accountability Office must study the impact of the joint negotiations, including their effects on local and regional news and the employment of journalists.
In general, the bill’s provisions terminate six years after its enactment.
We were curious how voters here in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, a major tech hub, feel about big tech companies being obligated to pay for news, with legislation like the JCPA helping facilitate compensation arrangements.
So we asked:
QUESTION: Media publishers have long argued that they aren’t being fairly compensated for articles, opinion pieces, and other content that generates advertising revenue for big tech companies like Google or Facebook. In Congress, lawmakers from both parties have sponsored proposals like the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would give publishers a safe harbor to collectively negotiate terms with the big tech companies for distribution of their content and agree on fair compensation. However, none of the proposals have become law yet. The big tech companies say they already help publishers by delivering traffic, and that requiring them to pay for news violates the principles on which the internet was built, like the idea of sites being able to freely link to each other. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that big tech companies like Google and Facebook should be obligated to pay media publishers for news content?
- Agree: 55%
- Strongly agree: 30%
- Somewhat agree: 25%
- Disagree: 17%
- Somewhat disagree: 8%
- Strongly disagree: 9%
- Not sure: 27%
Our survey of 773 likely 2024 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, June 7th through Thursday, June 8th, 2023.
The poll utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (41%) and online answers from cell phone only respondents (59%).
It was conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Northwest Progressive Institute, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% confidence interval.
Notably, the ratio of agreement versus disagreement exceeds 3:1. More voters strongly agree than disagree in total, with a significant number not sure. There’s just not much opposition to the idea of big tech companies paying for news. It’s something that makes sense to a majority of people in Washington, the home of tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon, and a place where California’s tech giants, including Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook, also have presences.
Among those voters who say they are employed by a large company with more than a thousand workers — which would include the aforementioned technology companies as well as others like Apple — 56% are in agreement and 16% are opposed, and 27% not sure. That’s about the same as our sample as a whole, with both support and opposition just slightly softer.
We found similar percentages for freelancers and sole proprietors.
Among those voters who work for, or own, a small business (excluding freelancers and sole proprietors, who were in their own category), agreement reached 60%, with 15% expressing disagreement. 26% said they were not sure.
Among those voters in Washington who identify as a member of a labor union or have a family member who is in a union, agreement reached 65%, with only 11% expressing disagreement and 22% saying they were not sure.
Regionally, majorities in every area west of the Cascades are in agreement, led by King County and the Olympic Peninsula / Southwest Washington, but a plurality in Eastern and Central Washington are also in agreement. (More voters east of the Cascades say they are not sure — 34%, compared to 27% in the whole sample).
The State of California is also considering legislation to help publishers: the California Journalism Preservation Act. Unlike Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, California has a year-round legislature that doesn’t take extremely long breaks in between constitutionally-limited winter and springtime sessions.
Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — which is not a front for any big tech companies and is known for its incisive analysis of federal legislation concerning technology matters — have criticized past incarnations of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, calling the bill “actively dangerous.”
“The way the JCPA is supposed to work is by giving an antitrust exemption to news sites, allowing them to negotiate as a bloc with sites like Google and Facebook, with the goal of getting paid every time those sites link to news articles,” Katharine Trendacosta and Mitch Stoltz wrote in a memo last year.
“There are a few major, fundamental problems with that premise.”
“For one, creating a new cartel to deal with existing monopolists is not competition, it’s the opposite. For another, creating an implicit right to control linking in any context won’t preserve journalism, it will let it rot away.”
“Finally, the focus on getting paid for links makes even less sense when the problem, historically, has been the domination of the digital ad market by a few huge players. The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act actually targets that specific problem much more effectively than the JCPA.”
The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act died when the last Congress dissolved. However, it has been revamped and reintroduced as the Advertising Middlemen Endangering Rigorous Internet Competition Accountability (AMERICA) Act. It happens to be prime sponsored by a fierce opponent of the JCPA: Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Interestingly, one of its cosponsors is Amy Klobuchar, showing that she is open to other approaches besides her own.
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren — one of the leading progressive voices in the United States Senate — is also a cosponsor of the AMERICA Act, along with extremely right wing Republicans like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley. It just goes to show that on many issues, there are areas of bipartisan agreement.
Given Republican control of the House, the AMERICA Act probably stands a better chance of becoming law this session than the JCPA, since it is supported by right wing groups that have more clout with the Republican majority there, along with progressive organizations like Public Knowledge that also oppose the JCPA.
Passage of the AMERICA Act or another bill that responds to the rigged landscape that publishers continue to face in this Congress would be an important breakthrough for the free press in America — one we sorely need.
The bottom line from our research is that voters in Washington are in agreement that big tech companies ought to be financially supporting the journalism that benefits their platforms. We urge our congressional delegation, especially Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (who aren’t cosponsors of either of the aforementioned bills) to take note of this finding and work with their colleagues in Congress to pass legislation to help the free press survive and thrive.