The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

California act proposes journalism usage fee for certain technology companies

Kara Kim
In response to struggling local newsrooms, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks’ Journalism Preservation Act would require Big Tech companies to pay a fee in order to use smaller publishers’ content.

Oakland Assemblymember Buffy Wicks has recently authored the California Journalism Preservation Act (AB 886), a bill focused on the state that would require Big Tech companies to pay a “journalism usage fee” following the failure of a federal bill titled similarly. 

According to Wicks’ press release, the bill, if passed, would make companies pay a certain fee whenever they “use local news content and sell advertising alongside it.”

In Wicks’ statement, the intentions of the bill are outlined as ensuring that large digital ad companies are properly compensating news outlets when they use their publications to benefit their own platforms. Wicks also wants to address the closing of many local news platforms with AB 886, stating that communities without local journalism struggle with “declining civic engagement and lower voter turnout to higher taxes and increased public corruption.”

The previous federal bill, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (S. 673), was submitted to Congress by Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy in 2022. 

For the same reasons as Wicks’ bill, S. 673 would have allowed smaller media outlets to negotiate fair compensation from Big Tech companies that gain profit from their publications, according to Klobuchar’s website.

However, S. 673 received pushback from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that tweeted that “instead of supporting local broadcasters and improving our access to the news, the JCPA favors big broadcasters and threatens our ability to find factual information online. Congress should not push this bill without amendments.”

Yet Wicks’ new bill would address this concern by requiring news publishers to put 70% of the profit earned by the fee into journalism jobs and prevent owners of large news organizations from monopolizing the money.

In addition, AB 886 is the first of its kind at the state level, and among the new requirements of the California bill is the implementation of a “journalism usage fee.”

“The federal bill would have allowed publishers and broadcasters to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google to be compensated for the use of their content. This bill is structured so that publishers and broadcasters or journalism providers are directly compensated from the platform based on the content viewed by California residents and ad revenue derived from it,” said Brittney Barsotti, the General Counsel at the California News Publishers Association (CNPA). “We’re just asking for a percentage allocation of the ad revenue that Facebook and Google receive from our members’ content.”

The CNPA, along with organizations such as the News/Media Alliance (NMA), advocate for quality journalism and fair payment for local news content. Both have officially announced support for the bill. 

“We were involved in the federal effort to support the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would have created a federal antitrust exemption. After those efforts, Assemblymember Wicks asked if there was a way to do something like this in California. Obviously, you can’t do it through the antitrust exemption because it’s controlled by federal law, so we worked very closely with the News/Media Alliance to craft a bill that would achieve the same goal but utilize different mechanisms,” Barsotti said.

According to Barsotti, companies get away with using journalism content for their own profit because news outlets must allow them to use their work however they want in order to have it on the platform and exposed to readers.

Their platforms are designed as walled gardens that they don’t want you to leave, so when they display our content and various ads, they essentially profit off of the use of our members’ content,

— Brittney Barsotti

“Big platforms like Google and Facebook have taken up 80 to 90% of digital advertising revenue while community and ethnic publications have continued to suffer. Their platforms are designed as walled gardens that they don’t want you to leave, so when they display our content and various ads, they essentially profit off of the use of our members’ content,” Barsotti said. 

Others, including non-journalists, recognize the importance of local news that the bill hopes to protect. 

“I think the bill will positively impact news publishers in California because it will help reduce their lack of recognition and pay,” said Manya Kumar, a sophomore.

For Kumar, local news articles and publishers help her as reliable sources of information for school projects and general knowledge.

Michael O’Neall is an AP Environmental Science and Biology teacher at Carlmont and a regular reader of the Scot Scoop and Highlander Magazine.

Like Barsotti and Wicks, O’Neall believes journalism is crucial for a functioning society and sees the bill as having an overall positive impact if implemented.

“Each local area has its own needs and its own issues that people need to know about. Often we focus on national problems and national elections, which do matter, but our lives are much more impacted by local laws, funding, and elections that are usually ignored by most large news organizations,” O’Neall said. “For us to make informed choices about who we elect and how best to help support each other in our area, we need to know about local issues and officials. Often when I’m looking at candidates for local office the only place I can find information about them is local sources.” 

O’Neall does not think the bill will solve the issue single-handedly but views it as a step in the right direction.

“With how important journalism is to a functioning government, we need to look at other ways we can support it. If anything, I would want more bills to be proposed that might help local journalism. This is definitely a complicated problem without a clear solution, but it’s worth a try,” O’Neall said.

O’Neall also notes journalism’s bimodal impact on Carlmont.

We have students in the journalism program here that do incredible work that often equals and even surpasses that of larger news sources. We also have students and teachers, like myself, that regularly read both the scot scoop and the highlander. I think it provides an invaluable look into what others, especially my students, are thinking about and seeing the diverse beliefs that students have here at Carlmont,” O’Neall said.

For Barsotti, the ultimate goal of the bill is to ensure not only that journalists are adequately compensated but also the sustainability of journalism.

“I think the bill will be transformative. There are a lot of small community publications that are suffering right now. To level the playing field between big tech and our members is critical for the sustainability of journalism and addressing the issues that we’re seeing around misinformation and disinformation. We need robust newsrooms to accurately report the facts,” Barsotti said.

Journalism’s role in preserving democracy is another reason why the bill includes that 70% of profits musts go towards journalism jobs and newsrooms, according to Barsotti.

“This isn’t to increase profits, it’s to make sure that newsrooms are being fairly compensated for the work that they produce—which is critical to our democracy,” Barsotti said.

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About the Contributor
Kara Kim
Kara Kim, Highlander Editor
Kara Kim is a junior at Carlmont High School and excited to be a Highlander editor this year. She enjoys talking to new people and is very interested in sustainability. In her free time, you'll find her doodling or looking to try a new restaurant. Check out her profile here!

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The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.
California act proposes journalism usage fee for certain technology companies