News outlets are seeking permission from the US Congress for the right to negotiate jointly with Google and Facebook, two companies that dominate online advertising and online news traffic.
The News Media Alliance, which represents nearly 2,000 news organizations in the US and Canada, says that because of those two companies’ dominance, news publishers are forced to “surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized”.
“These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news,” the alliance said in a press release on Monday.
The news industry has been hit with declining print readership and a loss of advertising revenue as it has moved online. The outlets want stronger protections for intellectual property, support for subscription models and a bigger share of the online advertising market.
Google and Facebook combined will account for 60% of the US digital advertising market this year, according to the research firm eMarketer.
David Chavern, president and chief executive of the news alliance, argues the Wall Street Journal that the two digital giants profit from the painstaking and expensive work produced by journalists.
“They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
“The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together. If they open a unified front to negotiate with Google and Facebook – pushing for stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for subscription models and a fair share of revenue and data – they could build a more sustainable future for the news business.”
The news alliance says it would need an exemption from antitrust law to negotiate as a group. But getting Congress to pass an exemption is likely to be difficult.
Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook, said in a statement that the company is “committed to helping quality journalism thrive on Facebook. We’re making progress through our work with news publishers and have more work to do”.
For example, the company says it is testing new products to help its users discover local news on Facebook. The company also says it’s working to cut down on false news and clickbait headlines in favor of “quality journalism”.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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