A group of Senate lawmakers introduced a bill to try to boost local news outlets, reflecting the ongoing concern in Congress over the struggle and, in many cases, demise of newspaper, digital, TV and radio outlets.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would provide subscribers with tax credits of up to $250 annually to cover a portion of subscription costs. It will cover 80% of the subscription costs in the first year and 50% in the next four years.
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Another credit would provide the news outlets with up to $25,000 to defray employment taxes in the first year, and $15,000 in the next four years, for each employee. That would cover 50% of compensation up to $50,000 in the first year and 30% in the next four years. Journalists would have to work a minimum of 100 hours per quarter to qualify as an eligible employee.
The bill also provides a credit for small businesses to advertise in local media, with a credit of $5,000 in the first year and up to $2,500 in the next four years.
The legislation, from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), is similar to a bill that then Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) introduced in the House last year.
“We have to protect these vital parts of our communities, because once they’re gone, they’re gone,” Cantwell said in a statement.
Cantwell, the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, last year unveiled a report on the decline of local news outlets, finding that newspapers have lost more than 70% of their revenue over the past two decades, and have shed 60% of their workforce. She even discussed the issue in an appearance with Chris Evans for his group A Starting Point.
Other legislation to boost local media is pending in Congress, including a bill, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, that would give news outlets a 24-month “safe harbor” from antitrust laws so that they can collectively negotiate content deals with online platforms.
In a statement, Gordon Smith, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, said that the legislation “would support and enable hiring additional local journalists for broadcast newsrooms.”
“At a time when misinformation and disinformation plague online platforms, broadcast radio and television continue to serve as reliable beacons of news that keep local communities informed and connected,” he said.
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