“Today’s hearing provides an excellent opportunity to examine [the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act] and other issues related to journalism in the online environment. These issues include matters as diverse as the boom in tech mergers and acquisitions to the mushrooming problem of online outlets that freeze viewpoints out of the online public square.”
WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at today’s Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee hearing.
Below are the remarks as prepared.
Ranking Member Collins: Thank you, Chairman Cicilline and Ranking Member Sensenbrenner, for holding this hearing.
This is the first of many hearings and oversight activities the subcommittee expects to hold over the coming months on important antitrust and competition issues in the tech sector. I firmly support this initiative. The conversations we will have in our committee are critical as Congress evaluates the depth, breadth and importance of these tech issues and whether any amendments to the antitrust laws are needed. The public’s understanding of these issues and the evolving role of tech in the daily lives of the American people are equally important as we have these discussions.
If we do identify needs for new legislation, it is important we keep two principles in mind.
First, like the existing antitrust laws, new legislation should be consistent with keeping the free market free. Proposals to construct broad, new regulatory regimes should be viewed with caution. Experience shows that regulatory solutions often miss the mark, solve problems less efficiently than free markets can and create new opportunities for anti-competitive companies to suppress competition through rent-seeking. That is especially true when regulation attempts to take on evolving problems in fast-moving markets like tech.
Second, big is not necessarily bad. Companies that offer new innovations, better solutions and more consumer benefit at lower prices often become big — to the benefit of society. Proposals to break up big companies just because they are big risk throwing the baby out with the bath water.
It is because I embrace these principles that I am excited to have joined Subcommittee Chairman Cicilline in the introduction of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. This bill takes head-on the problem of local and other news organizations disappearing from the public square as news consumption moves increasingly online.
A vibrant press has been critical to the success of our democracy since the founding of the Republic. In the past, press organizations were able to thrive based on their subscription and advertising revenues, but as news consumption has moved to the Internet, traditional subscriptions are speedily drying up and online advertising revenues are increasingly dominated by online platforms.
As a result, news organizations across the country are rapidly losing their economic lifeblood and disappearing from the public square.
If individual news outlets could count on being able to negotiate fair attribution and advertising-revenue agreements with the online platforms, the bleeding could be stopped.
The problem, however, is smaller news organizations don’t stand a fair negotiating chance when they try to negotiate deals with the platform giants. These giants stand as a bottleneck — a classic antitrust problem — between consumers and the producers of news content.
The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act seeks to solve this problem very simply — by allowing news publications to take on the platforms’ bottleneck together. Specifically, the bill allows these publications four years in which they can collectively negotiate with the platforms without fearing antitrust enforcement against that activity. In other words, the bill allows news publications to take on an antitrust problem without worrying that the antitrust laws themselves will stand in the way.
It does not propose any new regulatory structures. It does not threaten to break any company up, but it does promise to simply and effectively solve the problem.
Today’s hearing provides an excellent opportunity to examine this bill and other issues related to journalism in the online environment. These issues include matters as diverse as the boom in tech mergers and acquisitions, to the mushrooming problem of online outlets that freeze viewpoints out of the online public square.
I look forward to the witnesses’ testimony.