At a Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC on Wednesday (2/2), numerous media executives provided testimony as the subcommittee considers the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act that “creates a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for print, broadcast, or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors (e.g., social media companies) regarding the terms on which the news companies’ content may be distributed by online content distributors.” Joel Oxley, general manager of Hubbard Radio’s WTOP-FM, Washington, DC testified on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters.
He said, “Quality journalism delivered through our uniquely free service has only been made possible over many decades through advertising revenues. As you all are aware, these revenues have experienced a free-fall in recent years, due almost exclusively to the rapid, often anticompetitive, expansion of the dominant online platforms that have upended the advertising marketplace. The market power of the tech platforms undermines the online advertising model for local broadcast journalism in two important ways. First, the tech platforms’ role as content gatekeepers stifles our ability to generate user traffic. Second, anticompetitive terms of service and a ‘take it or leave it’ approach leave local broadcasters with a below-market sliver of those advertising revenues derived through their products. For local broadcasters and our viewers and listeners who rely on quality journalism, this is a real catch-22: To attract online user traffic, we must be accessible through the major platforms, yet the terms of access dictated by the online platforms devalue our product.
For example, not only is WTOP not being compensated by Facebook and Google for its content, WTOP is actually paying to make sure its content is being accessed on their platforms.” He added, “The dominant online platforms have flourished, siphoning off huge amounts of advertising revenues that are the lifeblood of free, local journalism. Consider the big storm that just blew through the Northeast over the weekend – a nor’easter and blizzard conditions.
Tons of work at a lot of cost and time for local broadcasters to cover it for millions of people. But not for Facebook, Google, and the like. They simply take our coverage and profit from it, and virtually nothing comes back to us. But without local news, my guess is a lot of people would have not evacuated places like Cape Cod last weekend, and lives would have been risked. We just can’t have that.”
You can read Oxley’s complete testimony here.