ICYMI: Local Independent Online News Publishers CEO Chris Krewson—Neither JCPA 4.0 Nor Its California Counterpart Will Help Local News Or Journalists
This Congress, would-be antitrust reformers have once again introduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA). Make no mistake: This bill would not help independent local journalists.
In a recent American Affairs Journal article, Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers CEO Chris Krewson explains exactly what you need to know about JCPA 4.0 and its unintended harmful consequences.
Here are some key takeaways:
On the whole, this proposal will not help local news. “[While the legislative proposals’] stated purpose is to help local news . . . on the whole, they will not.”
“JCPA will disproportionately favor big publishers” which is “unfair and a detriment to democracy.” “JCPA will disproportionately favor big publishers. As a small publisher now building a network, all I ask for is an even playing field. By enabling ‘side deals’, big companies – those light on journalistic missions and heavy on short-term profit maximization – are sure to drive disproportionately better deals. That’s unfair and a detriment to democracy.”
— Krewson continues to say nearly half of LION’s members “won’t see a dime from JCPA.” “As with Stuchbery’s analysis of Australia’s Code and its impact on this burgeoning ecosystem, based on their income nearly half of LION members won’t see a dime from the JCPA. That measure does not apply to news organizations that have been in business for less than a year, and it excludes news businesses that earn less than $100,000 per year. As of 2021, 44 percent of LION members earned less than that.”
Krewson has made it clear in a letter to lawmakers that the same issues exist in the California state equivalent proposal, the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA).
— “The CJPA, as written, would reward and advantage newspaper chains, and the ghost newspapers they’ve created in their wake. These legacy players – which operate more than half of the nation’s newspapers, by circulation – don’t deserve a redistribution of advertising dollars in the name of solving the problem they’ve spent so many years causing.”
— “[T]he measure would incentivize publishers to produce cheap clickbait, or republish shared work across dozens of properties, and then claim a payment for shuffling commoditized content.”
Krewson’s views are shared by other independent publishers. The American Affairs article also cites a letter from Ken Doctor, a newspaper executive and “industry analyst-turned-local-publisher” of Lookout Local.
Doctor explained other ways in which JCPA will negatively impact local press:
— “I believe JCPA, despite its intentions, will generate more negative impact on the local press standing and revival than positive. . . .”
— “New revenue streams that might be gained by these companies—and have no doubt they would more greatly benefit from negotiated or mediated platform payments than the hundreds of smaller outlets, like Lookout—won’t make a signal difference in the only metric that matters: how many journalists are working to cover local communities. The amounts estimated will not turn around companies that are losing tens of millions of dollars; they will only forestall the presence of these companies in their markets. In fact, their ability to take money that will increase their profits – but not their journalism – will be hard to police post passage.”
— “Money gained would support ‘ghost newspapers.’ We all hear about news deserts, and they are pernicious, but are found in relatively small population areas. Ghost newspapers do more, every day, to threaten local democracy. These are papers that maintain the decades-only trusted nameplates, but have one or two ‘local’ stories, usually written by a $20 an hour trainee reporter with no experience in the community. They are ghosts, and legislation that enables them to take space in the market – and stands in the way of new spirited operations getting established – is misguided.”
Reminder: The JCPA has been reintroduced in Congress four previous times and failed every single time.