Two U.S. Big Tech antitrust bills backed by publisher trade group

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Google logo is placed on the Apple Macbook in this illustration taken April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group representing publishers such as News Corp and National Public Radio wrote to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to back two bills targeting Big Tech, including one that would open up smartphone app stores to more competition.

Digital Content Next, whose members also include the New York Times and Associated Press, wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican, to back a bill aimed at reining in app stores owned by Apple and Alphabet's Google.

The group also backed a measure that would bar giants like from giving preference to their own businesses when customers search their platforms.

The two bills were voted out of the committee in recent weeks. They have also been approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

"Platforms should be able to moderate their services to protect consumers, police IP theft and prevent security lapses. However, some dominant platforms have leveraged their privileged status as gatekeeper to unfairly compete in other markets," Digital Content Next executives Jason Kint and Chris Pedigo wrote in the letter.

They also expressed concern about any potential move to put the publishers themselves in with companies covered by the bills - currently a small number of giant firms.

Publishers, whose news budgets have been squeezed as advertising dried up, have been battling search and advertising giant Google over what they see as the company's unfair siphoning off of badly needed ad revenues.

Smartphone maker Apple, a target of the app store bill, has urged that it not be adopted because it supports practices such as "sideloading," essentially using a non-Apple app store, which would mean that consumers lose privacy protections that Apple offers, among other concerns.

Google, for its part, lowered its Play Store fees for subscription apps last October, following criticism about 30% fees.

U.S. lawmakers in both parties, some concerned about outsized market power and others about allegations that conservative voices have been stifled, have scrutinized the biggest technology companies, including Meta Platforms Inc's Facebook. A long list of bills is aimed at reining them in, but none have become law.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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