AJC Editor Kevin Riley will testify Tuesday before a congressional subcommittee about the competitive pressures facing newspapers. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

AJC editor to testify on Capitol Hill about online media landscape

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Kevin Riley will testify before a congressional subcommittee Tuesday on the pressures facing newspapers and other news outlets online.

Ahead of his appearance on Capitol Hill, Riley is speaking this weekend with Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” about the importance of local journalism and the impact that large tech companies are having on it.

The “Reliable Sources” podcast can be heard at https://on-ajc.com/2wGGkrB. The podcast also features News Media Alliance CEO David Chavern and Sally Hubbard of the Open Markets Institute, who also plan to testify before Congress.

CNN’s television broadcast of “Reliable Sources” at 11 a.m. Sunday featured more discussion on protecting the future of news publishers and high-quality journalism.

Riley will testify in support of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019 in a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust. The bill, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, would allow news organizations to negotiate collectively with online outlets like Google and Facebook without running afoul of federal antitrust laws.

> RELATED: Text of Kevin Riley’s prepared remarks for the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee

Collins is a vocal critic of how online content providers have come to dominate the dissemination of news in the United States.

“Sadly, newspapers across the country — which have informed their communities for decades — are closing their doors because revenue that normally funds their papers is instead going to Facebook and Google, even though users are engaging with news content,” Collins wrote in an April 9 op-ed in the AJC.

Riley said during his “Reliable Sources” appearance: “Does it make sense that at a time when our audience is at its biggest point, our financial difficulties are at their most difficult point?”

The legislation is supported by the News Media Alliance, a Virginia-based consortium of North American newspapers and digital news organizations, which claims Google and Facebook rake in 60% of total digital ad revenues in the United States. Newspapers, however, are facing an existential decline in ad revenue. In 2005, ad revenues for U.S newspapers totaled $49.4 billion. According to the Pew Research Center, 2017 ad revenue for the industry had fallen to $16.5 billion.

Tuesday’s hearing comes as lawmakers are looking more broadly at alleged anti-competitive practices by giant online companies and whether the federal government should use its antitrust powers to break them up.

“This is about how do we get competition back in this space,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said in a press conference Monday, according to The New York Times. Cicilline is the primary sponsor of the newspaper legislation and chairs the antitrust subcommittee.

Riley is expected to explain the committee how local communities are impacted by the weakening or loss of local news outlets. The hearing will be Tuesday at 2 p.m., with testimony carried online at judiciary.house.gov.

> RELATED: How to watch the subcommittee hearing

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