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US: Committee hearing to examine big tech’s media market power

 |  June 12, 2019

Get ready for the opening act of a what may be long-running show – focused on antitrust and on Big Tech.

The House Judiciary Committee had its first hearing June 11, as part of a series, focused on anticompetitive behavior among online companies.

The hearing will focus on the way the news media has been shaped by the advent of platform companies such as Facebook and Google.

The committee’s hearing comes in the wake of news last week that it would look into whether stricter antitrust laws should be in the offing. As had been relayed in a statement by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Democratic congressman from New York, “there is growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications. Given the growing tide of concentration and consolidation across our economy, it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws.” And separately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that for big tech firms “the era of self regulation is over.”

In an interview this week with CNBC, House Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, also of New York, said, “We’re at the beginning of a journey. We should hear from the CEOs of the big tech companies with respect to concerns that many people on both sides of the aisle have articulated.”

In reference to the media, several members of Congress, a roster that includes Republican Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, and Democratic Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who serves on the Antitrust Subcommittee, have co-sponsored legislation where local news organizations can negotiate with larger platform companies over issues such as access.

An examination of the Committee’s website shows that ahead of the afternoon’s hearings, titled “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 1: The Free and Diverse Press,” witnesses include David Chavern, president, News Media Alliance; Gene Kimmelman, president, Public Knowledge; Sally Hubbard, who serves as director of enforcement strategy, Open Markets Institute; and David Pitofsky, general counsel of News Corp., among others.

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