Publisher Bailouts Likely Will Face Political Opposition

  • by May 15, 2020
Publishers are among the media companies that have seen steep drops in advertising revenue during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to calls for government programs to rescue smaller news outlets that serve the public interest.

It's too early to tell whether these pleas will have any effect, considering how unsympathetic many people are to the plight of the news media.

The antipathy was evident last year, when the media industry cut thousands of jobs and media columnists like me fretted over the dismal conditions for publishers. Business Insider had a running tally of media job cuts that totaled 7,800 by December, a number that seems awfully quaint compared with The New York Times' count of 36,000 job cuts, furloughs and pay reductions at news companies during the pandemic.



Back then, parts of the Twitterverse practically erupted with glee when media outlets cut jobs, urging the newly unemployed to "learn to code" and reinvent themselves as software engineers. Part of the derision had political tones, with people mocking the news media for writing the same "Orange Man Bad" story about President Trump over and over.

That hostility toward the news media may resurge amid demands for taxpayer bailouts, though I suspect people tend to have a more favorable opinion of their local newspaper than the national news media. People also tend to have a low opinion of Congress, while expressing greater support for their local representatives.

Amid that backdrop, I'm curious to see whether a recent proposal by Free Press Action, a media advocacy group that can be described as "progressive" or "socialist" depending on your political persuasion, has a chance of shaping any coming round of fiscal stimulus measures.

The group's plan includes $1.5 billion in emergency grants to local news organizations, or about $50,000 for 30,000 newsroom workers, and a mix of tax credits and funding measures. The program would have a watchdog to help ensure it doesn't end up as a slush fund for companies that can raise money elsewhere, as happened with the much-maligned Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration.

Of course, the most important stimulus measure will be the gradual lifting of lockdowns that have stymied business activity and triggered the worst joblessness since the Great Depression. As painful as the past couple of months have been, I'm seeing more reports about how advertisers plan to ramp up their media spending when they're allowed to reopen stores, restaurants, movie theaters and other services.

Those advertisers will need to publicize their reopenings and highlight how they are protecting the safety of customers. Unfortunately, the continued threat of the coronavirus is likely to hamper the recovery for those advertisers ,whose spending provides the financial lifeblood for publishers.

1 comment about "Publisher Bailouts Likely Will Face Political Opposition".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, May 15, 2020 at 10:43 p.m.

    There is another element that should be considered.  Many publishers were in no man's land because they didn't get the PPP. If anything this was because the banks gave perference to their bigger clients verses their smaller ones. Survival of the fittest. 

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