David Chavern

The News Media for Open Government, of which the News Media Alliance is a member, has announced its public policy agenda for the new Congress, “focusing on both a free press, as well as a more transparent, open government.” Federal agencies’ Freedom of Information Act compliance and a shield bill to protect journalists’ sources that was introduced in the last Congress are among the issues the group is working on.

NMOG, formerly known as the Sunshine in Government Initiative, is a coalition of news media and journalism organizations working to ensure laws, policies and practices preserve and protect freedom of the press, open government and the free flow of information in our democratic society, according to the group. “An informed public is the cornerstone of our democracy and ensuring that the public has information about what its government is doing is essential,” said coalition Director Melissa Wasser. “NMOG is committed to promoting and advocating for policies on Capitol Hill that keep our government open and accountable to the governed.”

The coalitions members are The Associated Press, American Society of News Editors, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, National Association of Broadcasters, National Newspaper Association, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.

News & Tech: The NMA is pushing for an anti-trust safe harbor for news publishers. "The dominant tech platforms are using their market power to force policies and practices on the news industry that threatens its viability," the NMA wrote in comments you submitted to the FTC for an August hearing on competitive practices. What type of safe harbor do you want? What do you think the FTC or Congress will do on the issue?

Chavern:

The Safe Harbor bill we’ve asked for would incorporate a limited safe harbor into current antitrust laws, providing news publishers the ability to collectively negotiate with big tech platforms, such as Facebook and Google, on important factors — such as algorithmic transparency, revenue and data sharing — that underpin the public’s continued ability to access news from trustworthy sources — a lynchpin of our democracy.

The bill introduced by Rep. Cicilline would provide a four-year window for newspaper companies to negotiate fair terms that would flow earned subscription and advertising dollars back to the publishers, while protecting and preserving Americans’ right to access quality news. Parameters included in the bill ensure that these negotiations would strictly benefit Americans and news publishers at-large; not just one or a few publishers.

News & Tech: The European Parliament voted to alter its copyright directives to make aggregator sites responsible for copyright violations, among other changes. The directive has to go through several steps to become laws in the member states. If it is made law, how do you see the European Copyright Directive affecting U.S. publishers?

Chavern:

If the EU is able to establish their Copyright Directive with Article 11’s digital protections and secure copyright for news publishers intact, it will start a global wave of implementing publisher copyright protections, and the entire media landscape will be better for it. I believe that Google has an interest in seeing content creators thrive, since the quality of content is directly related to the value that is added to the platform. Without news publishers, Google would lose value. The EU Copyright Directive will determine the relationship between the duopoly and news publishers not only in Europe, but around the world. A win for publishers in Europe will mean a chance for U.S. publishers — as well as publishers across the globe — to demand the same fair treatment. A loss in Europe could mean a much more dramatic fight between publishers and platforms.

News & Tech: The NMA has objected to Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security proposals to eliminate the requirement that employers notify U.S. workers of available jobs with printed advertisements in Sunday papers. What do you think will happen on the issue?

Chavern:

We’re hopeful that the DOL and DHS will see that their proposal to move all job listings online will hurt the American worker. If employers are allowed to publish their listings online only, many will simply “check the box” by submitting their openings to one website, and then quickly move on to hire foreign nationals when they don’t find American workers to fill the role. By keeping the print requirement, the DOL and DHS would be ensuring that as many Americans as possible learn about temporary job openings in their area, and would be making it more likely that those roles could be filled by American workers. Given the current administration’s push to put America first, we’re confident that they will want to save the print requirement once they understand just how much they’d be helping American laborers in the process.

News & Tech: What other government or regulatory issues do you anticipate members will be concerned about in the near future?

Chavern:

First and foremost, we’re concerned with the free speech of reporters, which has been hindered greatly in recent years by the Trump administration. We’ve seen more attacks on journalists in the past year, including moves by the White House to take away reporters’ press credentials. We, along with our colleagues, are closely watching the administration’s treatment of journalists and making sure their First Amendment rights are not violated.

The News Media Alliance is also closely watching the postal rates to ensure our members who deliver their newspapers and advertising mail products via the U.S. Postal Service are able to continue doing so at rates that are fair and reasonable; tariffs on aluminum, which are impacting member publishers using aluminum printing plates to print their newspapers; net neutrality, as we believe all information should be granted the same value on the internet; and creating an alternative funding mechanism for community newspaper pension plans to ensure that publishers have more flexibility in operating their businesses while maintaining high-quality pension plans for employees and retirees.

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