Justice Department suit against Google is a start, but industry leaders say legislation is the key

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The need for government intervention to address the issues faced by newspapers and other companies as a result of Google's monopoly over search and search advertising is highlighted in a suit filed against Google by the U.S. Justice Department. But, legislative action is needed to address the newspaper industry's real concerns.

"As a leading advocate for the newspaper industry, America’s Newspapers will work hard to keep our members informed of significant developments in what I expect will be a long road of litigation," said Alan Fisco, president of The Seattle Times Company and president of America's Newspapers. "Be assured that we will be strong advocates for our industry as the pressure on some of the major tech platforms unfolds."

Regarding the antitrust lawsuit being filed today, The Wall Street Journal writes: "The Justice Department alleged that Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., GOOG 0.86% is maintaining its status as gatekeeper to the internet through an unlawful web of exclusionary and interlocking business agreements that shut out competitors. The government alleged that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisements on its platform to pay for mobile-phone manufacturers, carriers and browsers, like Apple Inc.’s Safari, to maintain Google as their preset, default search engine."

Fisco has been at the forefront of advocacy efforts in calling for passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019, which would give publishers a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws to allow print and digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors like Google. The News Media Alliance, and now America’s Newspapers, are advocating on behalf of the industry to see the passage of this important legislation. 

View a recording of an advocacy session at PIVOT 2020, the virtual conference of America's Newspapers, in which Fisco, Wick Communications CEO Francis Wick and Dean Ridings, CEO of America's Newspapers, discussed the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act ... and more.

Ridings also called on members today to continue the push for passage of this legislation.  “Newspaper publishers are keenly aware of Google’s practices that have negatively impacted the news industry and many other businesses," he said.  "Google’s use of content without appropriate payment to publishers has exacerbated the problems facing newspapers and the communities they serve. While today’s action by the Justice Department doesn’t address those important issues, it demonstrates that government intervention is needed to correct the imbalance. We look forward to working with Congress to take the important next step and pass the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act.”

David Chavern, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, also called on Congress to take legislative action, saying that the suit by the Justice Department doesn't address the larger issues faced by the newspaper industry. "We still have a long way to go when it comes to antitrust enforcement against Google," Chavern said, "While it is good that the DoJ is starting the process, 'search distribution' issues are a small subset of the many issues presented by Google dominance.  News publishers are particularly harmed by Google's control of ad tech, by way of example — and that doesn't appear to be covered at all by the DoJ's action today."

He added, "Local news is in an immediate crisis.  Congress should do a very simple — and ultimately pretty conservative — thing and pass the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act and give publishers a chance to fight for their lives right now."

Read more about the Justice Department suit filed against Google in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Google, antitrust

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