Leahy: Push Poll Purports to Show Majority of Republican Voters Support Media Cartel Bill

maskless subway
Mario Tama/Getty Images

A push poll released Wednesday, paid for by an establishment media-funded nonprofit designed to hype a Big Media cartel protection bill given the misleading name of the Journalism Competition and Protection Act (JCPA) by its sponsors, purports to show a majority of Republican voters back the legislation.

Echelon Insights, a polling firm founded and run by Patrick Ruffini, who handled grassroots outreach and technology for the George W. Bush 2004 presidential campaign, and Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Washington Examiner columnist and Fox News contributor, partnered with the News Media Alliance, a strong supporter of the JCPA, to produce the poll.

The News Media Alliance website claims it “is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 news organizations and their multiplatform businesses in the United States and globally. Alliance members include print, digital and mobile publishers of original news content. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Va., the association focuses on ensuring the future of news media through communication, research, advocacy and innovation.”

The News Media Alliance Board of Directors is populated by a Who’s Who of establishment media executives:

Board chairman Antionette “Toni” Bush, executive vice president and global head of government affairs for News Corp, which owns Fox News, Maribel Perez Wadsworth, publisher of USA TODAY, Chris Argentieri,  president of California Times, which includes the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, Gregg Fernandes, executive at The Washington Post, which is owned personally by billionaire Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Guy Gilmore, chief operating officer of Digital First Media, owned by hedge fund Alden Capital, which has been notoriously criticized for purchasing thriving local newspapers, decimating the local reporting staff, and milking the last ounce of value from the once respected local news brand, Rebecca Grossman-Cohen, executive at The New York Times, Donna Hall, publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the regional bastion of establishment media in the Southeast, Jeffrey M. Johnson, president and group head of Hearst Newspapers,  Dan Krockmalnic, executive with Boston Globe Media Partners, Mark Newhouse, executive vice president of newspapers for Advance Publications, and Barbara Wall, who serves on the Board of Directors of Gannett Company, Inc.

The House version of the JCPA, HR. 1735, is sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline, (D-RI) and co-sponsored by 27 other members of the House of Representatives, 21 Democrats and six Republicans, two of whom, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT), are surprising because both have publicly criticized the kind of establishment narrative reporting embodied by the participants in the News Media Alliance. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) is the most vocal Republican cosponsor of the bill.

The bill summary provided at Congressional Research Services, says it “creates a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws for print, broadcast, or digital news companies to collectively negotiate with online content distributors (e.g., social media companies) regarding the terms on which the news companies’ content may be distributed by online content distributors.”

Echelon Insights characterized the JCPA as “a bipartisan bill that would grant news publishers a limited, temporary safe harbor to negotiate better business terms with Big Tech platforms, including Facebook and Google.”

But opponents of the bill, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), as well as other leading conservatives, paint JCPA in an entirely different light.

“The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will give even more power to the mainstream media and Silicon Valley. We need to protect our small newspapers and ensure they are compensated for their content. This will allow big tech to further consolidate power and make it even easier to censor conservative voices on social media,” Sen. Blackburn t0ld Breitbart News earlier this month.

“In the case of the collective bargaining [in the JCPA], yeah it sounds interesting. . . That is, you could have some of the newspapers that are locally owned or owned by a conglomerate, they’ll cut their own deal. They’ll say ‘you’re right, we’re a credible, reputable news organization—collectively bargain with us for our content. But everyone else who challenges our narrative or our views, they get a different deal and you could even not promote their information if you want.’ So, like I said, the intent is good. But I think in practice it opens the door to greater collusion between big media and big tech,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Breitbart News last month.

As Breitbart reported last month, the bill “would allow big media companies like the New York Times and CNN to form a cartel to pressure tech companies for special treatment.” It has been blasted by “President Trump’s tech censorship experts, one of the two Republican FCC commissioners, House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Jim Jordan, and staffers to fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus.”

The Echelon Insights poll was conducted over a five-day period from June 4 to June 8, and is remarkable mainly for the blatantly leading nature of the questions it posed to respondents, and its polling methodology, which was entirely internet based. The 956 poll respondents were “Republican and Republican-leaning voters,” who were “sampled from web panels matched to L2 Voter File.”

Notably, Echelon Insights did not provide a margin of error on the survey, which most polling forms typically include.

While the reported demographics of the poll respondents appeared to match the reported demographics of other polls of Republicans done by firms that rely on sample selection and questioning methodologies that are not entirely internet based, the leading nature of the poll questions are another matter entirely.

Specifically, the questions were framed in a way to allow the Big Media members of the News Media Alliance–USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times and others–to masquerade as conservative media and local media, which they decidedly are not.  That’s the way the narrative of the poll was framed.

The questions are blatantly one sided. There’s no balance to the question. They play into the current free speech, Pro-Trump sentiment against Big Tech among conservative Republicans. [Note: Some parts of questions below are highlighted in bold for emphasis.]

The first question introduces the idea of the bill, which the poll says is “a proposal that would allow news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate better terms for the use of their content by Big Tech.”

  • Policymakers are working on a proposal that would allow news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate better terms for the use of their content by Big Tech, notably Google and Facebook. Would you support or oppose such a proposal?

The next question presents an inaccurate description of the bill in the two possible responses offered to the respondent:

  • There is currently a debate in Congress over this proposal. Which of these statements comes closest to your view, even if neither of them is exactly right?
    1. Congress should pass this proposal, because it gives small, local, and conservative news media more tools to fight back against Big Tech by requiring that they have a chance to work together and get fair compensation for their work
    2. Congress should keep the law as it is, which would require each individual news outlet to try to strike deals with Big Tech on their own

The subsequent question does the same thing in the two responses:

  • Some members of Congress are opposed to this proposal, arguing that Big Tech should be free to negotiate with whomever it likes. Which of these statements comes closest to your view, even if neither of them is exactly right?
    1. These members of Congress are doing the bidding of Big Tech and its lobbyists, and will only hurt smaller, local, and conservative publishers as a result
    2. These members of Congress have well-reasoned objections to protecting local and conservative news outlets from Big Tech

The poll then moves on to a series of agree/disagree questions, which it frames as follows:

  • Supporters of the proposal which would allow print, broadcast, or digital news publishers of all sizes to band together to collectively negotiate better terms for the use of their content by Big Tech have given some reasons why they say the plan is needed. For each, please indicate if you think you agree or disagree with the statement.

The questions that follow are framed in a way that continues to support the News Media Alliance masquerade that it is both “local” and “conservative:

  • Local news outlets and conservative media need to be able to band together to better negotiate a fair deal with Big Tech.
  • If news publishers are forced to cut deals with Big Tech one-on-one, Facebook and Google will take advantage of this and use their power to ignore small, local, and conservative news publishers, leaving them out of negotiations entirely.
  • Elected officials who oppose this proposal are allowing Big Tech to have all the negotiating power instead of giving conservative and local media the tools to fight back.
  •  Because Big Tech has so much power, it will be able to drive small, local, and conservative news outlets out of business if it is allowed to leave them out of negotiations.
  • It is important to make Big Tech treat conservative media like any other news outlet.
  • It is important to stop Big Tech from discriminating against conservative media.
  • Local and small news organizations should have the same negotiating power as big ones, like the New York Times.
  • Big Tech companies should fairly compensate local and conservative news publications for their content.
  •  Congress should pursue this proposal to help local and conservative media even if it also benefits national news organizations like the New York Times or the Washington Post.
  • Big Tech companies should be required to offer the same compensation terms to local and conservative publishers as they do to national news organizations.

After all the respondents are asked these push poll questions, they are asked the question whose responses are highlighted as one of the Echelon Insights poll:

  • Knowing what you now know about the proposal to allow news publishers to band together to collectively negotiate better terms for the use of their content by Big Tech, notably Google and Facebook, would you support or oppose such a proposal?

Not surprisingly, here are the key findings Echelon Insights said the poll revealed:

  • 73% of Republican voters surveyed believe that local news outlets and conservative media need to be able to band together to better negotiate a fair deal with Big Tech.
  • Three out of four (75%) Republican voters surveyed believe that Big Tech should not be allowed to profit from news content unless it is fairly compensating news organizations for using that content.
  • 70% of Republican voters surveyed believe Facebook and Google take advantage of news publishers when they negotiate on a one-on-one basis and use their power to ignore small, local, and conservative news publishers, leaving them out of negotiations entirely.
  • More than two-thirds (67%) of Republican respondents agree that elected officials who oppose the JCPA are allowing Big Tech to have all the negotiating power instead of arming conservative and local media with the tools to fight back.

Here are the key findings Echelon Insights said the poll revealed:

  • 73% of Republican voters surveyed believe that local news outlets and conservative media need to be able to band together to better negotiate a fair deal with Big Tech.
  • Three out of four (75%) Republican voters surveyed believe that Big Tech should not be allowed to profit from news content unless it is fairly compensating news organizations for using that content.
  • 70% of Republican voters surveyed believe Facebook and Google take advantage of news publishers when they negotiate on a one-on-one basis and use their power to ignore small, local, and conservative news publishers, leaving them out of negotiations entirely.
  • More than two-thirds (67%) of Republican respondents agree that elected officials who oppose the JCPA are allowing Big Tech to have all the negotiating power instead of arming conservative and local media with the tools to fight back.

The final two questions of the poll, whose responses are listed below, continued the theme of incorrectly portraying the bill as a battle between conservative media and Big Tech:

  • Facebook and Google are lobbying against this proposal. Does that make you more or less likely to support it?
    1. Much more likely 45%
    2. Somewhat more likely 22%
    3. Somewhat less likely 10%
    4. Much less likely 6%
    5. Unsure 17%
  • Conservative publications like National Review, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, and the Washington Examiner are supporting this proposal. Does that make you more or less likely to support it?
    1. Much more likely 34%
    2. Somewhat more likely 31%
    3. Somewhat less likely 9%
    4. Much less likely 4%
    5. Unsure 22%

The final question makes no mention of truly local media outlets and other conservative media that oppose the JCPA.

As Breitbart reported last month, such opposition is well founded:

Under the current wording of the bill, media companies would be allowed to form a cartel to strengthen their hand in negotiations with tech companies.

The bill also allows them to exclude media companies that are not “similarly situated” to members of the cartel from the benefits of these negotiations, opening the door for competition to be marginalized.

The bill also specifically allows the media cartel to negotiate with the tech companies on issues related to “quality, accuracy, attribution or branding, and interoperability of news,” allowing them to set universal standards for the industry without the say of their competitors.

Republican FCC commissioner Nathan Simington issued a warning earlier this week that the JCPA could be extremely damaging to local news.

“I would love more clarity on what counts as “similarly situated,” what constitutes a “digital news organization,” and “terms that would be available,” Simington told Breitbart News.

“For example, if a local newspaper has inferior economies of scale to a national one, commercial terms with bulk rates per click are worse for the local newspaper, while commercial terms with a lump sum per piece of content are worse for the national newspaper. If these terms are available to both, but negotiated by the national newspaper, they will actively harm the local one.”

In addition to opposition from communications and technology experts like Simington, the JCPA is also opposed by House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, and Sen. Marsha Blackburn.

Rep. McCarthy called the bill the “antithesis of conservatism” in comments to Breitbart News in March. Rep. Jordan has warned it will grant the media “cartel power.” Sen. Blackburn has said it will grant “even more power to the mainstream media and Silicon Valley.

Some of the other results of the poll show the misleading nature of the questions. For instance, the poll claimed 68 percent of respondents trusted local news — your local newspaper or local TV news station — a lot. The poll lumped Fox News, Newsmax, and conservative talk radio into a category called “conservative news organizations,” which 67 percent of respondents said they trusted “a lot,” and put the New York Times and national news broadcasts into a category called “national news organizations,” which 37 percent of respondents said they trusted “a lot.”

However, a 2019 Gallup Poll found that on reporting about state and local government among all voters, only 8 percent of respondents said local TV reporting was excellent, and just 37 percent said it was good.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.