U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told members of America's Newspapers on Tuesday, May 11, that she will seek about $2.3 billion worth of tax credits and grants for local newspapers and broadcasters as part of President Biden's infrastructure plan.
Sen. Cantwell, who has been active in helping the newspaper industry address the challenges that many papers faced with regard to the Paycheck Protection Program, told participants at PIVOT 2021 that, while PPP loans helped the industry stave off its biggest challenges in the near term, additional help will be needed over the next two to three years.
She said a 67-page report that she published last October recognizes how much newspapers have lost due to unfair market practices and to changes in the way news content is delivered, adding: "We want to make sure you don't lose any more during this next two to three years." View the full report here: "Local Journalism: America's Most Trusted News Sources Threatened."
Her proposal would include a combination of both tax credits (for employee health care, benefits and payroll) and grants administered through the Department of Commerce to help newspapers rehire some of the lost workforce and build back good local content.
Alan Fisco, president of The Seattle Times Company and president of America's Newspapers, said: "It was wonderful to hear the depth of support Senator Cantwell has for a vibrant news media ecosystem and the need to support our industry beyond PPP loans. It was especially gratifying to learn she is looking at options for including some support for news organizations in an upcoming infrastructure package that could be for multiple years."
In the next several weeks, Sen. Cantwell also noted that hearings will be held in front of the Senate Commerce Committee, in which issues of trust, unfair market practices and the challenges posed by Big Tech will be addressed.
She said the combination of legislation and these hearings "are the best way we can help bridge the near-term challenges that news organizations are facing, while the Department of Justice and others look at the legal remedies to help get a more level playing field with the industry and tech sector."
The trusted brand that newspapers bring to their local communities was highlighted this past year, she said, during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Your sheets were filled every day with lots of COVID information. I can't imagine going through COVID without newspapers and journalism," she said. "That brought home the point." Unfortunately, though, she said a lot of people still see the long-term industry prospects as an inevitable sea change.
Since 2005, newspapers have lost more than 40,000 newsroom employees and roughly 60% of their workforce, she said — an issue "we can't shy away from addressing."
As details of her proposal are developed, America's Newspapers will keep its members informed.