WASHINGTON – Newspaper officials and broadcasters facing a catastrophic loss of revenue and staffing urged Congress on Friday to approve legislation that would allow them to collectively negotiate ad rates with tech giants such as Google and Facebook, but some lawmakers questioned the remedy.
The legislation aims to help newsgathering organizations by creating an anti-trust exemption for negotiating better ad rates with tech giants. The goal is to slow or stop a 70% decline in ad revenue since 2005, which led to reduced staffing and more communities without newspapers.
“There are few institutions more important to the health of democracy than a free press,” Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, who supported the legislation, told the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, commercial and administrative law.
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Ad revenue for newspapers shrank from $49.4 billion in 2005 to $14.3 billion in 2018, according to a Pew Research Center study. Since 2004, the country has lost 2,100 newspapers. Since 2010, the number of newspaper reporters has been cut in half to 35,000, according to a report by the University of North Carolina’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
Tech giants gobbled up the advertising revenue during the same period. Google’s advertising revenue rose from $6.1 billion to $116 billion since 2005, according to the Pew Research Center. With enormous market share, witnesses argued Google…