One of the biggest media trade groups has a message for U.S. regulators — it's time to act.
The News Media Alliance, which represents 2,000 news and media organizations, told the Federal Trade Commission it is fed up with big tech platforms hampering their digital businesses, and it wants the government to rein in their anti-competitive behavior.
The NMA made the comments in a letter issued ahead of the FTC's upcoming hearings on "Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century."
“The news industry receives 80 percent of referral traffic from the platforms but only about 14 percent of revenue on average comes from that traffic," Danielle Coffey, vice president of public policy at NMA, said in a statement. "Something is not translating.
The filing stated that Google and Facebook dominate both the distribution and the monetization of news, since most online users get their news via search and social media.
Among the NMA's arguments:
“Dominant platforms use secret and unpredictable algorithms to determine whether and how content is delivered to readers."
The platforms have grown by serial acquisitions and exclusionary conduct. “Action by the FTC is thus needed and justified to rein in the tech giants’ anticompetitive conduct.”
The tech platforms are forcing policies on the news industry that threaten its viability. Google, for instance, asked news publishers to provide news stories under a "first click free" program. When the WSJ declined, its traffic fell.
The News Media Alliance had a stark warning for the FTC if no action is taken: “If the news industry is permitted to continue deteriorating as the technology platforms take over, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the consequences.”