(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) in sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking for her support for local media outlets and newsroom journalists who have been severely impacted the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was also signed by Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Elaine G. Luria (VA-02), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Darren Soto (FL-09), and Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11).
The letter urges the Speaker to include the Protect Local Media Act of 2020 in the next economic stimulus bill, which directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate 50% of government advertising to local newspapers, television and radio stations and provides a tax credit for newsroom employees hired between now and December 31, 2020.
“Congress must act now to protect local media outlets and journalists who are at risk of being swallowed up by big business. We look forward to working closely with you in the days and weeks ahead to ensure we protect our local media during this unprecedented crisis,” wrote the Lawmakers.
“The collapse of local news endangers not only democracy but, we are now seeing, the public health. Having trustworthy, non-partisan, objective reporting is essential,” said Steve Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America. “We need government policy that gives local news a fair shot at survival without getting government overly involved in journalism or the news business.”
“As seen with the closure of The Vindicator and the rapid decline of the Plain Dealer - our cities’ media pillars are being crushed. It’s everywhere, and it leaves cities stunned and grasping. New pillars must be created,” said Todd Franko, Director of Local Sustainability and Development at Report for America, and former Editor of The Vindicator
Read the full text of the letter below:
April 15, 2020
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi,
Thank you for your leadership during this time of crisis. As work begins on a CARES 2.0 package, we urge you to support much needed support for local media outlets who have been several impacted the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local newspapers, television, and radio stations nationwide have experienced a significant decline in revenue due to the coronavirus. Considering that most of their revenue comes from sponsorships and advertising for local arts and community events, local media has taken a major hit because of the cancellation of advertising contracts. Many local news outlets, including many in our states, are unsure whether they will be able to keep their doors open, and many have already begun staff layoffs. Protecting local media is essential because these outlets are important for sharing local information within communities. And during these unprecedented times, these outlets are playing a vital role in providing important public health information and sharing additional resources such as how to access unemployment or which grocery stores are offering special hours for seniors.
For these reasons, we urge you to include the Protect Local Media Act of 2020 in the CARES 2.0 package. This plan would provide guaranteed and sustained assistance to local media outlets who have been directly impacted by COVID-19. The Protect Local Media Act plan would:
- Direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to designate 50% of government advertising to local newspapers, television and radio stations for the purposes of addressing the covid-19 pandemic up until December 31, 2020. After December 31, 2020 the FCC should designate no less than 25% of government advertising to local radio, newspapers, and television stations. Additionally, the FCC should take steps to ensure the distribution of funds is done in a nonpartisan and nonideological way.
- To address the significant layoffs this bill would instate an Emergency Jobs for Journalism tax credit of 30% of the employee’s first year wages up to $20,000 per newsroom employee hired during the remainder of the calendar year for 2020. The tax credit would apply through the end of 2021.
- Further, the bill amends the IRS Code to include as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit purpose the publication of written news articles (including electronic publications) which includes religious, charitable, scientific. This tax credit is effective until December 31, 2020.
- This bill directs the FCC to make efforts to coordinate with the Small Business Administration to offer deferred interest business loans to qualifying newspapers, radio and television stations.
Congress must act now to protect local media outlets who are at risk of being swallowed up by big business. We look forward to working closely with you in the days and weeks ahead to ensure we protect our local media during this unprecedented crisis.