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Should Big Tech Pay Publishers? Congress Is Ready to Hear From Both Sides.

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Sun shines on the U.S. Capitol dome in this Monday, Nov. 2, 2020 file photo, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The debate over whether or not tech platforms should pay news organizations will get a public forum Friday morning with a much-anticipated hearing from the House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee. 
This is the second in a series from the subcommittee. The first took place at the end of February and looked at the power of major tech companies to serve as gatekeepers for the internet. 
The hearings come after a bipartisan report from the House Judiciary Committee, released last year, found that tech companies are harming journalism and, in turn, democracy, by using data collected from readers of online news articles to dominate the digital advertising space, which media companies also rely on. 
Since then, the issue of paying publishers for their online content has garnered headlines, as Facebook and Google engaged in a very public battle with the Australian government over a new law that would force tech companies to remunerate media companies.  
The tech giants' initial responses were decisive and ultimately unpopular. Google threatened to leave Australia, and Facebook went so far as to cut off 18 million Australian users from sharing or viewing news stories — moves that some saw as big-tech bullying a democracy into getting its way. 
The companies have since come to an agreement with the Australian government to compensate news organizations for their content, but the deal remains shaky. Facebook has yet to sign a deal with a single media company, and some publishers report being frozen out of negotiations. 
The stand-off in Australia is only the latest example of Big Tech getting pushback from news organizations and the governments that support them. The European Union also passed a directive that would empower member states to force tech companies to pay publishers. 
France, meanwhile, negotiated a deal with Google to pay news providers based on daily volume and monthly internet audience — a deal which has already led to payments to publishers. 
In the U.S., media companies have long maintained that Google, Facebook, and Amazon, which now pull in two-thirds of digital ad revenue, don't properly compensate them for their content. 
These issues will likely be on the agenda at Friday's hearing, which will feature representatives from seven local TV stations, the New Media Alliance, the National Association of Broadcasters, and the NewsGuild-CWA. 
As for tech companies, only one attendee has been confirmed, Microsoft President Brad Smith, who has attended several tech-based hearings in recent months and has expressed support for efforts to get technology giants to pay up. 
The executive wrote in a blog post back in February that he supported Australia's new code because it helps "redress the competitive imbalance between the tech sector and an independent press." 
"Even more important, the legislation will redress the economic imbalance between technology and journalism by mandating negotiations between these tech gatekeepers and independent news organizations," he wrote. "The goal is to provide the news organizations with compensation for the benefit derived by tech gatekeepers from the inclusion of news content on their platforms." 
The hearing will happen against a backdrop of a new bipartisan measure introduced on Wednesday called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which aims to help smaller publications collectively negotiate with tech companies for payment. 
"For too long, a handful of dominant tech platforms have unilaterally set policies impeding media outlets' ability to reach audiences, attract advertisers and monetize their news content," said Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, in a statement. 
"The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act would afford news producers the ability to negotiate a fair return for their local journalism that serves America's communities."
Tune into Cheddar Friday, March 12th starting at 10 a.m. ET for full coverage of the latest hearing.
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