Last week, another bill was introduced in both the House and the Senate with the intention of supporting local media to help offset the erosion of their advertising base by digital media. The Local Journalism Sustainability Act (text of House bill here, and summary of Senate bill here) proposes certain benefits for local newspaper subscribers, as well as benefits to advertisers who advertise on local media – both broadcast and print. For newspaper subscribers, individuals can get tax credits of up to $250 per year to cover a portion of their newspaper subscription fees. For advertisers who place advertising on either a local newspaper or a local broadcast stations, a tax credit of up to $5000 would be available to certain small businesses who utilize local media to get their advertising messages to their communities.
In addition, the bill would provide local media a tax credit of up to $12,500 for hiring local “journalists” who spend at least 100 hours per year on reporting local news. While the current House version of the bill provides this credit only to newspaper companies, the summary of the Senate version proposes that it also be extended to broadcasters. This provision in particular has brought support from the RTDNA – the association that represents news professionals – who see it as an incentive to local media outlets to hire more news professionals.
This bill has just been introduced, so there is still a long way to go before it becomes law. This is just another of the many bills that have been introduced in Congress this year in reaction to the perceived power of big tech companies and their impact on the economics of the local news and information industry on which citizens rely for information about their communities. We recently wrote about bills introduced to allow for collective negotiation between broadcasters (and other local media outlets) and the tech companies for those digital media company’s dissemination of content generated by traditional media players. We also noted the Congressional proposal to set up a commission to study possible government funding of local media. Issues about the impact of the tech giants on local media are also certain to come up in the FCC’s assessment of changes to the local radio ownership rules, currently under consideration in the current Quadrennial Review of the FCC ownership rules (see our articles here and here on the impact of digital media competition on radio competition). The Local Journalism Sustainability Act perhaps presents the first concrete proposal for tentative steps for government funding of local media. We will be watching to see where these efforts go in the coming months.