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Frenemies: Global Approaches To Rebalance The Big Tech v Journalism Relationship

 |  September 16, 2022

By: Courtney C. Radsch (Tech Tank/Brookings)

Big Tech has enabled unparalleled reach, engagement, and innovation in the news media even as the decoupling of advertising and journalism has threatened the very foundation of a commercial news model and ushered in the era of disinformation. Lawmakers in the U.S. now appear poised to join in efforts around the world aimed at rebalancing the codependent relationship between Big Tech and news publishers with the release of an updated Senate bill enabling small news organizations to negotiate compensation from tech giants like Meta and Google that appears to have bi-partisan and bi-cameral support.

More than a year after Australia adopted a pioneering new media bargaining code and the EU Copyright Directive went into effect, the idea of getting Big Tech to pay for the news they use is gaining greater support around the world, with lawmakers in Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Sweden, the U.S., and the U.K. exploring interventions that they hope will support an industry facing an extinction event yet recognized as essential to democratic governance. Governments are also considering whether competition policy should be deployed to claw back revenue from tech behemoths and the AdTech infrastructure they control or to enable news media to collectively bargain with aggregators and other platforms that use their content.


These legal regulatory efforts have coalesced around three dominant types of interventions: taxation, competition/antitrust, and intellectual property. The building blocks include:

  • Allowing publishers to collectively bargain without violating antitrust laws
  • Requiring platforms negotiate with publishers for the use of news snippets
  • Requiring platforms to pay licensing fees to publishers
  • Taxing digital advertising and using the resulting revenues to subsidize news outlets

Australia’s 2021 news media bargaining code compels platforms to negotiate payment to media outlets for using their content, and despite criticism that it amounted to a Big Tech subsidy to Big Media given extensive lobbying by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the law has also rejuvenated  the country’s journalism sector. Australian media outlets large and small have benefitted and new journalism jobs are being created in a sector that lost thousands of opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic – though the lack of transparency into the commercial deals negotiated between publishers and platforms remains problematic…