What is the CJPA, and How Will it Affect News Publishers?

Female hands with newspapers and microphones on light background

Big tech and news publishers had mixed reactions when the California legislature proposed the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA). While some news publishers jumped with joy at the state government’s support for preserving journalism, others cautioned against this approach as misguided.

Upon proposing the bill, California Assembly member Buffy Hicks said, “The CJPA provides a lifeline for news outlets – large, small, and ethnic – by directing a portion of the ad dollars back to the print, digital, and broadcast media that bear the entire cost of gathering and reporting local news while Big Tech bears none.” 

As digital media evolves, it has become increasingly harder for news publishers to monetize their content. Many are hustling and finding ways to broaden their content and revenue opportunities. It also has not helped that big tech has monopolized news content, according to industry experts. Wicks asserted that big tech was lining their pockets from local news content and emphasized that the bill aimed to compensate the publications generating that revenue fairly. 

Not surprisingly, big tech reacted strongly to this accusation. In 2021, Google and Facebook already threatened to block news content in response to a similar legislative proposal in Australia. Now, Google is adopting a similar stance with California Legislators. 

A Deeper Dive into the CJPA

The CJPA aims to shake up online big tech operations. Under current regulations, these platforms are only required to submit terms of service reports occasionally. But if this bill passes, they’ll have to cough up monthly or quarterly cash to digital journalism providers proportional to how much advertising money they rake in. 

To receive payment, news publishers must verify their eligibility—a process that platforms can challenge. The bill also prevents platforms from punishing news providers who stand up for their rights under the new rules. It stipulates how news publishers should use the funds to invest in news journalists and their support staff.

Additionally, the bill demands accountability. News publishers must publish annual reports detailing their fees, sources, and spending. This transparency applies to both the publishers receiving the funds and the platforms footing the bill. 

Google v. CJPA

On Friday, Google announced that it has begun blocking access to news for certain individuals in California. As a result, an unspecified number of California residents will be unable to access local news through Google searches. While opinions on this bill vary, some liken the Big G’s tactics to blackmail. 

The bill’s supporters argue that while this measure would provide much-needed support to the state’s struggling news organizations, which are experiencing significant job losses, Google contends that being obligated to pay a “link tax” for facilitating access to news articles for California residents is not feasible.

Jaffer Zaidi VP, Global News Partnerships at Google argues that since the search giant assists people in discovering news stories, publishers of all sizes can expand their audiences without any expense. CJPA would disrupt this model. 

The bill would prioritize media conglomerates and hedge funds advocating for its passage. In addition, he asserts that the funds from the CJPA could be used to continue purchasing local California newspapers, depleting them of journalists, and creating additional ghost papers that function with minimal staff to generate predominantly inexpensive and subpar content. 

“To be clear, we believe CJPA undermines news in California,” said Zaidi. “We don’t take these decisions lightly and want to be transparent with California publishers, lawmakers, and our users. To avoid an outcome where all parties lose, and the California news industry is left worse off, we urge lawmakers to take a different approach.”