SACRAMENTO (Calif.) (AP). Big Tech companies like Google and Meta may soon be required to pay media outlets to post and use their news content, under a California measure that aims to save local journalism.
The bill, which was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support on Tuesday, requires Google and Meta Media to share their advertising revenues derived from news and other reported contents with California media companies. The amount will be determined by an arbitration process.
Supporters of this bill say it will provide a lifeline to local news organizations whose advertising revenues have plummeted in the digital age. The bill's opponents, including some journalism groups and trade groups, said it would be a mandate that was unprecedented, violating the First Amendment.
The bill would require that at least 70 percent of their revenues go to local news organisations to help pay the salaries of reporters. The bill would prohibit big tech companies from retaliating by excluding a news organization's content on their platforms because they demanded a fee.
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, Oakland's bill author, stated during Tuesday's hearing that 'community news outlets are being downsized at a frightening rate'.
The Democrat claimed that California lost more than 100 media organizations over the last decade.
She said that major journalism unions, such as the News Media Alliance, Media Guild of the West and The Los Angeles Times, are supporting her bill.
Critics of the bill claim that the law is unconstitutional because it requires online platforms to publish content from all news agencies. The bill would reward clickbait and limit Google's and Meta's ability to combat misinformation through their platforms, as this could be interpreted as retaliation.
Chris Krewson is the executive director of LION Publishers. This national news group represents more than 450 independent media outlets. He said that this bill was 'fundamentally faulty' and not written with small newsrooms' in mind.
He said that the bill would primarily benefit newspaper chains and hedge fund companies who have destroyed local newsrooms over the past few decades. His group represents over 50 local newsrooms, of which 80% are operations with fewer than five journalists. He said that most of these news outlets would not meet the criteria to qualify for benefits.
In an interview on Tuesday, Krewson stated that he applauded the legislator for securing bipartisan support. But this is backward.
LION Publishers received funding of at least $1,000,000 from Meta over the past two years. Krewson, however, said that he was not speaking for the tech company.
Similar attempts to boost local news agencies have been made in the United States of America, Australia, and Canada with varying degrees of success. Australia passed a law that was implemented in 2021.
Payments of $140 Million
Google and Facebook dominated the news industry in 2013.
U.S. legislators are also pushing similar initiatives. In March, they reintroduced a bill that had failed during the previous congressional session. The bill would have allowed media companies to negotiate advertising rates with tech giants like Google.
Meta declined to comment about the California bill, but pointed out
It was made to the U.S. Congress by 2022.
Another way to say this is:
It made this threat to the Canadian Government in the past year, when it threatened that it would pull all content on its platform if it had to pay for the news. Google did not respond to a request for comment about the California bill.
The bill's implementation remains unclear, despite clearing another hurdle on Tuesday. Some lawmakers pointed out that Meta's Facebook does not work the same as Google. Google scrapes websites to provide users with summaries and reports of the reported content. Facebook, on the other hand, shows users content like photos, videos, and articles based on what they do on its platform.
Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democratic Assemblymember, said that he was also concerned about how the state could ensure that the money went to local journalists.
How can we ensure that these aren't just profits being handed over from one big company to another? He asked this question at the hearing on Thursday.
Wicks stated that she will clarify these concerns before June 2, which is the deadline for the Assembly to vote on the bill prior to it being taken up by Senate. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is yet to indicate whether he will support such legislation.