Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week to begin considering a highly controversial bill that would allow media companies to form a collective bargaining cartel, a proposal that critics have warned will empower big media companies and harm independent journalism.
The bill, called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), does the opposite of what it promises: it protects discredited media companies from competition by allowing them to form a legal cartel to collectively bargain with Silicon Valley.
If the bill passes, big media companies would be able to strike deals with Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other tech giants that could prioritize their content to the detriment of podcasters, YouTubers, Substack authors, and other forms of independent media.
Proponents have won over many Democrats and some Republicans with claims that the bill would force Big Tech companies to pay publishers for their content, but critics of the plan warn that in reality it would simply empower bigger media companies to make their own sweetheart deals with tech giants and leave independent publishers behind—thereby exacerbating the Big Tech issue even more.
House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has slammed the bill, a version of which was debated in the House Judiciary Committee last year, as the “antithesis of conservatism.”
“Attempts by big media and Democrats in Congress to collude and monopolize economic models poses a tremendous threat to free speech and a free press,” said Rep. McCarthy.
The proposal has also been condemned by independent journalist Glenn Greenwald.
“If you allow the biggest players — the New York Times, Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post — to be at that table and give them an antitrust exemption, you’re essentially creating two consortiums instead of eliminating the one at the root of all of the problems,” said Greenwald at a hearing last year.
FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington has warned that the JCPA could undermine local and independent journalism.
“If the practical effect of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is to strengthen national journalism, I am concerned that it will undermine local journalism — both in its independence of voice and its community engagement,” said Simington.
“I worry that negotiations permitted under this bill would be dominated by the interests of the biggest, best-funded national journalism content creators. Without a mechanism to prevent this, the bill will effectively give such creators the ability to negotiate on behalf of an industry that they do not truly represent.”
The JCPA seemed dead last year in the House when Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) was met with severe repercussions for leading the charge for it and conservatives and Republicans lined up against it. But now that the broader Democrat agenda is in peril as President Joe Biden’s approval rating lags, Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill are frantically searching for something — anything — to tout as some kind of accomplishment going into November’s midterm elections.
The fact that this matter is coming up before the Senate Judiciary Committee is interesting, given that this very committee in just a few short weeks will be the battleground for the confirmation hearings and broader process for Biden’s forthcoming nominee to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
That gives this committee little time this year to consider this legislation — if it doesn’t move close to immediately, the high court process may overtake this effort — which seems to along with the broader stalled out Biden agenda efforts explain the frantic rush to revive the once-dead JCPA effort.
Democrats may also be attempting to use this fight to divide Republicans, as the unusually colorful Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) — a Judiciary Committee member — is the lead senate Republican on the proposal, while several of his fellow Judiciary Committee Republicans are expected to aggressively oppose the plan.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), for instance, has already publicly announced opposition to it, saying it would “allow big tech to further consolidate power and make it even easier to censor conservative voices on social media.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has also denounced the bill, saying it “opens the door to greater collusion between big media and big tech.”
Sources familiar with the matter told Breitbart News that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is itching to lead the intra-committee fight against this even though he has yet to weigh in on the matter publicly.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.