(Bloomberg) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is cosponsoring a bipartisan bill that would help news publishers jointly negotiate with internet platforms such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
The Kentucky Republican added his support to the bill on Monday, according to Congress’s website. The legislation would grant publishers a four-year exemption from antitrust laws so they could negotiate financial terms with the tech giants that often serve as a gateway for readers and online advertisers.
McConnell’s support arrives as the companies increasingly come under fire in Washington on issues ranging from privacy to election interference. They have also been accused of controlling too much of the advertising market, to the detriment of news outlets who rely on the companies to reach advertisers and their audiences.
The bill, which has seven Senate supporters in total, was introduced by Senators John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat. A companion measure in the House was introduced by the chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, and the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins of Georgia.
Last month, two additional senators, Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, and Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican also signed onto the legislation.
David Chavern, president of the News Media Alliance, a trade group for publishers that supports the bill, said the latest sponsorships suggest the proposal is gaining momentum.
“There is bipartisan concern about the future of local news,” said Chavern, whose group counts the New York Times, the Washington Post and News Corp. as members. “Local news in particular needs to find its way to a new economic model and that economical model runs through Google and Facebook.”
Bloomberg News does not belong to the publishers’ group.
In response to criticism in recent years, tech companies have been making changes to the way they handle news content. Last year, Facebook introduced a separate news section in its flagship app, offering users more control over articles they see and providing money to the publishers whose stories are featured. Google has said it drives readers to publishers’ websites and has created new programs to improve advertising and technology practices of media companies.
Representatives for Google and Facebook did not immediately comment on McConnell’s move. Both companies have lobbied on the measure, as has News Corp., according to disclosures with Congress.
Carl Szabo, vice president of the tech trade group NetChoice, which counts Facebook and Google as members, said the measure would be “absurd” and urged lawmakers to reject it.
“If passed, an antitrust exemption would likely only cement media cartels dominated by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, not local journalists,” said Szabo, referring to the founder of News Corp.
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