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Television Affiliates Ask FCC To Regulate Big Tech

 |  April 26, 2022

Representatives from ABC Television Affiliates Association, the CBS Television Network Affiliates Association, the FBC Television Association and the NBC Television Affiliates (The Four Affiliates Associations) sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on April 21, claiming that digital platforms do not fairly compensate broadcasters and urging the regulator to modify existing rules to impose stricter requirements on Big Tech.

According to representatives of the Four Affiliates Associations, local stations are Americans’ most trusted source for accurate, factual, unbiased news and emergency information. Even as shifts in the video programming ecosystem have challenged local broadcasters, their service to the public continues unabated. They emphasized that market shifts in the last seven years have jeopardized both advertising and subscription fees, which broadcasters rely on to produce local news, emergency information, and other locally-focused programming. The Four Affiliates Associations discussed the increasing dominance of Big Tech corporations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon in the advertising sector, as well as the accompanying declines in ad revenues available to local broadcasters.  

According to the broadcasters, Big Tech companies should “compensate local broadcasters fairly for the distribution of the broadcasters’ valuable news content on their platforms.” This is not the only initiative that broadcasters have taken to get fair compensation — they are also advocating on that issue before Congress, but with limited results so far.

Big Tech companies have been under increasing pressure around the world to compensate newspapers and broadcasters for their content. For instance, Canada has recently proposed legislation that would require platforms such as Facebook and Google to contract with news publishers and compensate them for utilizing their content. Canadian publishers have long pressed the government for such a move, alleging that advertising money, which was once their lifeblood, has disproportionately gone to foreign digital behemoths.  

Canada joined other countries, such as Australia, France, and Spain, in requiring Big Tech to negotiate with news publishers and pay for their material. Australia passed a law that operates in case negotiations between the tech giants and media companies fails. The legislation establishes an arbitration system that may make binding rulings on the prices Google and Facebook must pay news publishers for content hosted on their platforms. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, may shortly follow suit.  

The associations also discussed with the FCC the lack of regulatory parity between broadcasters and Big Tech companies, citing as an example the unequal playing field that exists between them in terms of political advertising, which is a particularly pressing issue in the current media environment. Broadcasters are subject to several political advertising restrictions, including disclosure requirements and online public inspection file record-keeping duties, according to the representatives. In contrast, IT platforms are not compelled to abide by the Commission’s political advertising guidelines, which are intended to ensure transparency and accountability. “As a result, despite capturing billions of dollars in political advertising each election cycle, Big Tech and other digital platforms are not constrained by the norms designed to defend the safety and integrity of our electoral process,” said the associations in the letter.

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