Today the California Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an Informational Hearing on “The Importance of Journalism in the Digital Age.” Senator Tom Umberg is holding the Hearing to give California legislators the opportunity to learn more about the state of journalism in the state, the challenges local newsrooms face and potential solutions, and how the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA, AB 886) in particular can help support a vibrant free press.
The CJPA would require Big Tech platforms such as Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram) and Google to pay news publishers a “journalism usage fee” to use the content of eligible digital journalism providers, as defined in the bill. Currently, creators of journalistic and creative content are not adequately compensated for the use of their work that takes a tremendous investment to produce.
The CJPA was introduced by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) in March and passed out of the California State Assembly in June in a floor vote of 46-6 before it was held over to the next session. The Informational Hearing will provide legislators the opportunity to ask questions and provide input before the bill is brought up early in the next session in 2024.
“We applaud Assemblymember Wicks and Senator Umberg for their commitment to sustaining journalism and their dedication to the California Journalism & Preservation Act (CJPA),” said News/Media Alliance President & CEO Danielle Coffey. “By holding this informational hearing and having an open dialogue, they are showing their ardent commitment to preserving quality local journalism that supports a healthy democracy and providing their constituents with important information about their communities. Without meaningful action, news outlets will continue to disappear.”
News outlets, especially small, local ones, are shuttering at alarming rates as revenues decline and costs rise. California has lost more than 100 newspapers in the last decade.
A new report from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University last month raised the level of urgency surrounding the local news crisis, finding that one-third of the newspapers in the U.S. in 2005 will be gone by 2024. Previous reports had estimated the timeline to reach that milestone would occur in 2025, which indicates that the pace of closures has accelerated. Most of the communities that lose their local newspaper do not get a replacement or have a digital source for local news for their community.
When local newspapers shutter, there is a significant detrimental effect on communities whereby civic engagement goes down, corruption goes up, and the ability to combat disinformation grows increasingly difficult.
When newsrooms are full, the public reaps the rewards. The CJPA would also promote the hiring of more journalists, requiring news publishers to invest 70 percent of the profits from the usage fee into journalism jobs.
The News/Media Alliance has been vocally advocating for legislation at the federal level since 2018. The Journalism Competition & Preservation Act (JCPA), which was reintroduced by Antitrust Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator John N. Kennedy (R-LA) on March 31 (S. 1094), passed through Senate Judiciary Committee markup in June.
The dominant tech platforms have become de facto gatekeepers of journalism, setting rules for how news content is displayed, prioritized, and monetized. They reap the majority of the financial benefits of sharing publishers’ original content without incurring any of the costs of gathering and reporting news their users want and rely on. The CJPA and JCPA directly address these challenges and are a crucial part of the solution to preserving local journalism.
Coffey added, “With similar laws being passed around the world, we are seeing more and more support for getting this legislation passed countrywide. We must act now to protect and support publishers of high-quality journalism, who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe and informed through their reporting. We look forward to the CJPA moving to a Senate vote next year and working with policymakers in California to implement the CJPA and restore fairness and balance to the marketplace.”
For more information on the federal JCPA, visit www.JCPABill.com
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