Local news providers, facing the twin threats of the pandemic and shrinking ad revenue, are pushing for passage of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bill that would supply tax credits to readers and other stakeholders.
For instance, state broadcasting associations have written to Senate leadership to pass the act, Radio Television Business Report writes. This includes groups from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
“Local broadcasters in all 50 states remain committed to providing critical — and free service to their local communities,’ the letter says. “We therefore urge Congress to act swiftly and pass S. 2434 this year to ensure that local radio and television broadcasters and local newspapers can continue to serve their vital roles in informing Americans and keeping them safe.”
However, the changes of success appeared dicey: Only three U.S. senators had signed on as co-sponsors as of Monday of this week, the report continues.
On another front, small publishers are urging their readers to push for passage of the bill.
“Call your U.S. representative and senators and ask them to support bipartisan legislation called the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which, at this writing, had 29 cosponsors on both sides of the aisle,” writes the Winchester Sun of Clark County, Kentucky.
The paper adds: “The combination of digital subscription growth; strategic expense reduction, especially reduced frequency of print publication; funding from a Paycheck Protection Program loan; and loyal employees who work tirelessly on behalf of the newspaper and a community they love has helped us navigate the crisis to date.
The Senate version of the Sustainability Act was introduced in July by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The House bill was put forward in June by Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. It proposed:
*A $250 subscription credit that would cover 80% of costs in the first year. Subscribers who stick would receive a $500 credit in each of the following four years.
*A local journalist compensation credit of $25,000 in the first year, covering 50% of a $50,000 salary. Then there would be a credit of $15,000 — or 30% — in each of the next four years. The person would have to work 100 hours per quarter to qualify as an employee.
*A $5,000 local newspaper and local media advertising credit, covering an estimated 80% of ad costs in the first year. It would total $2,500, or 50% of costs. To qualify, a small business would have to spend $6,250 and $5,000 in each of the respective periods.
The Sun states that the House bill has received wide bipartisan support.