Cantwell declares local news is critical infrastructure — urges congressional support

Americans trust local news over national news by a two-to-one margin; Roughly 37,000 newspaper employees have been laid off, furloughed or had their pay cut since the pandemic began

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U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, yesterday came out strongly in favor of including local news as critical American infrastructure in need of support — highlighting the role of local broadcasters and newspapers as a trusted source of news and information during the pandemic.

“So I plan to, Mr. Chairman, push this issue as it relates to this critical infrastructure investment we're making,” Senator Cantwell said at the subcommittee hearing. “I think news, local news particularly, a trusted source, is frayed beyond belief. And if we don't shore it up, at least until the legal battles play out with the tech industry, that will be making a big mistake. So I continue to appreciate this hearing, because I think it was a good diagnosis of how important local journalism was and I think the critical infrastructure needs to be preserved.”

In October of last year, Senator Cantwell released a report about the impact of unfair practices by major technology companies on local news outlets all across the country. “Local news across America creates competition and trusted information,” Senator Cantwell said in a statement released along with the report. "We shouldn't let regional and community news die as local newspapers and broadcasters adjust to digital delivery because online giants are unfairly leveraging the advertising market against them.”

That same month, Senator Cantwell pressed Big Tech CEOs about the impact of their platforms on local news. “The message from today's hearing is the free press needs to live and be supported by all of us, Senator Cantwell said at that hearing. “We look forward to discussing how we can make sure that they get fair return on their value.”

Then, in December, Senator Cantwell successfully fought to expand Paycheck Protection Program eligibility for more local news outlets to receive PPP funding — providing a lifeline to local outlets all around the country.

Video of Chair Cantwell’s Q&A with witnesses can be found HERE, audio is HERE and a transcript is HERE.

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