Journalism Sustainability Act an Encouraging Sign for Newsrooms but More is Required to Save the News Industry
The Save Journalism Project is encouraged by yesterday’s news of U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introducing the Local Journalism Sustainability Act of 2021. This legislation is a helpful first step in financially supporting local news organizations through tax credits that incentivize hiring more journalists, subscriptions, and advertising from local small businesses. It will also be essential to continue putting pressure on the digital ad duopoly of Google and Facebook to stop their anticompetitive practices that deny journalists fair compensation and unfairly undermine the long-term health of newspapers, big and small.
For the past two decades, newspapers have been fighting an unwinnable battle against Google and Facebook. Facebook, with 2.7 billion users, is the leading social network in the world. Google controls 88 percent of the search engine market and Google Chrome is the most used browser in the world. By acquiring smaller firms, Google has also become the dominant player at every stage of the digital advertising process. The result: Google and Facebook account for 58% of digital advertising revenue nationally and 77% of local advertising revenue.
Google, in particular, has used its incredible market position to set rules that disadvantage ad-tech competitors and harm website publishers, particularly news publishers. Google and Facebook have also leveraged their dominant platforms to collect so much data on everyone on the internet, including readers of local news outlets, that they know more about a newspaper’s reader than the outlet does. Google and Facebook claim exclusive rights over this data, creating walled gardens to discriminate against competitors and put local news outlets at a competitive disadvantage.
Policymakers are now recognizing the precarious position journalists have been forced into because of anticompetitive and monopolistic practices of tech giants like Google and Facebook.
Sen. Cantwell released a report in 2020 highlighting the state of local news in the digital era. The report cites that over the past two decades, the local newspaper industry has lost around 70 percent of its total revenue and newspapers have been forced to let go a full 60 percent of the journalistic workforce that creates unique local content.
The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would create a tax credits to:
- Incentivize Americans to support local journalism by subscribing to their hometown newspaper or another local news outlet
- Encourage local newspapers to invest in expanding–rather than reducing–the number of journalists in their newsrooms;
- Incentivize small businesses to invest in their community by spending more of their advertising dollars with local news outlets rather than the Big Tech duopolists, Google and Facebook.
“The introduction of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is a positive step in the fight to save journalism and its crucial role in our democracy,” says Laura Bassett, co-founder of the Save Journalism Project, “This bill will help journalists across the country, and we thank Senators Cantwell, Kelly, and Wyden for their leadership. Big Tech has taken so much from journalists, and we will continue to fight to reign in their power and revive our news industry.