Home Enterprise Solutions US news firms seek collective bargaining with Google, Facebook

US news firms seek collective bargaining with Google, Facebook

A number of news organisations in the US will make a bid to band together and negotiate collectively with Google and Facebook, provided they can get an anti-trust exemption from Congress to do so.

The organisations are taking this step because of the alarming leaks of revenue from their news sites to the two Internet companies, according to a report in The New York Times.

The idea was floated by David Chavern, chief executive of the News Media Alliance, in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

The NMA is the main newspaper industry trade coalition and is leading the effort to bargain as a group. Among its members are the Times, the WSJ, the Washington Post, and regional papers like The Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

News Corporation, owner of the WSJ, the New York Post and Dow Jones, said in a statement that it backed the move to "focus the public and Congress on the anti-competitive behaviour of the digital duopoly, especially as it adversely affects the news and information businesses".

Mark Thompson, chief executive of the company that owns the Times, was quoted as saying: "The temperature is rising in terms of concern, and in some cases anger, about what seems like a very asymmetric, disadvantageous relationship between the publishers and the very big digital platforms.”

However, the newspaper companies will need to get a government exception to negotiate collectively. Else they will end up on the wrong side of anti-trust laws as book publishers did when they attempted to collectively negotiate with Apple.

The Times report said that specific permission to negotiate as a group was not often granted. But it added that one of the people backing the effort, Rupert Murdoch, had a great deal of influence with US President Donald Trump.

The external counsel of the NMA, Jonathan Kanter, expressed optimism that one argument could sway Congress: "The product at issue is important from a public policy perspective — we’re not just talking about widgets, we’re talking about news, and news is crucial for a democratic society."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.