Media Organizations Call on Government to Aid the News Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced hundreds of newsrooms to impose massive cuts, layoffs and furloughs—so much that several media organizations have called on Congress to lend crucial financial assistance to the industry.

In April, a coalition of more than 45 organizations and scholars including Pen America, Free Press Action and Common Cause addressed a letter to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House; Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader; Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader; and Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader asking that at least $5 billion be allocated to support local journalism in the next stimulus package.

The letter specifically asks for increased federal appropriations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to support public and community media of all kinds, emergency funds to preserve newsrooms and reporting jobs, public investment for civic-information needs of communities most impacted by the long-term decline of local news like rural and urban communities, increased federal spending on government advertising and safeguards to ensure editorial independence.

The News Media Alliance, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), National Newspaper Association (NNA) and America’s Newspapers, also jointly called on Congress to provide critical support to local news media in the next coronavirus stimulus bill.

According to a press release, these four national media organizations ask for the ability for local media to seek relief under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a small business loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis (since many local media and news organizations exist within larger business groups, they are deemed ineligible for this program).

David-Chavern
David Chavern

In addition, they seek the funding of federal advertising spending on local media as well as “providing the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration and other relevant agencies with an additional $5 to $10 billion for direct funding for local media advertising.”

Alliance president and CEO David Chavern explained it was no easy feat to decide what would go in the letter.

“First of all, it’s hard for any industry to figure out a government program that would work and be helpful,” he said. “The news industry has an extra burden in that we have this need to be independent from government. So, we’ve had to process through a lot of different ideas out there and there’s still lots of good ones…but (these are) the ones that people felt most comfortable with to keep our independence.”

Less than two weeks after the call was made, senators responded. According to The Hill, a group of senators including Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) sent a letter to Senate leadership noting that thousands of newspapers and hundreds of radio and television stations were excluded from the PPP. The letter argues that local newspapers and broadcasters “are essential for maintaining a well-informed public, and deserve our help.”

Chavern said the organizations were happy to see the response and are now focusing on getting the crucial support for the industry into legislation.

Whatever happens next, he believes there is still a lot of hope for the future of the news industry: “It’s clearer than ever that when things get real, people immediately depend on their local news publisher and there’s power and value in that, and that’s ultimately going to carry us through.”

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2 thoughts on “Media Organizations Call on Government to Aid the News Industry

  • June 18, 2020 at 9:45 am
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    No government bailout. Print media has been cascading downward for years and there are many more critical areas for taxpayer dollars to be spent.

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  • June 18, 2020 at 5:54 pm
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    News publishers are businesses, too, so they ought to be allowed to participate in programs like PPP that are available to the wider business community. Government-funded advertising is appropriate, too, because the government should be communicating with the people and the people have a right and a need to know. But maintaining editorial independence from governmental control is essential to the news media’s ability to continue as the “Fourth Estate.” Look at what is happening to government-funded Voice of America, PBS, NPR, etc. Regarding the downturn of print newspapers, I am guessing that Jerry Kurbatoff does not live in a media desert, like I do, where there is no regular news coverage of my town by any type of news media. Too, I doubt that Jerry lives in a rural, lower income area, like I do, where half of the residents cannot get Internet access even if they wanted it, because it’s simply unavailable. I would like to know what “areas for tax dollars to be spent” are more “critical” than informing me about my town, my county, my state, my nation, and especially my government at all of those levels. That knowledge is essential for me to be able to carry out my civic duties as a citizen, including voting. I missed a local election earlier this year because I didn’t find out about it until three weeks later. Is that simply the price I must pay as a resident of a small town in a rural area?

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