124 Democrats, Republicans Advocate for New Federal Funding to Support Local News

Apr 29, 2020

PAWTUCKET – U.S. Representatives David N. Cicilline (RI-01) and F. James Sensenbrenner (WI-05) are leading more than 100 members of both parties in pushing to protect local news publishers and broadcasters in the next COVID-19 relief package.

 

“Reliable local information and reporting in our communities is more important than ever—newspapers and broadcasters are working ‘around the clock, often in dangerous conditions, to consistently get critical and timely information to the public,’” the Members of Congress wrote. “Local news publishers and broadcasters employ thousands of journalists—including reporters, photographers, newsroom staff, and others—to provide timely and accurate news to keep people informed about their communities.  Under ordinary circumstances, this work is essential to public health and safety, local businesses, and our democracy. But it is more important than ever as our country responds to and recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.”

 

The full text of the letter and a list of signers is embedded below. A PDF copy of the letter, as delivered, can be downloaded by clicking here.

 

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April 29, 2020

 

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515         

 

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy

Minority Leader

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Madam Speaker and Minority Leader McCarthy:

 

We write to ask that any future stimulus package to address the coronavirus pandemic include immediate improvements to existing lending programs to protect local news publishers and broadcasters.

 

Reliable local information and reporting in our communities is more important than ever—newspapers and broadcasters are working “around the clock, often in dangerous conditions, to consistently get critical and timely information to the public.”  Local news publishers and broadcasters employ thousands of journalists—including reporters, photographers, newsroom staff, and others—to provide timely and accurate news to keep people informed about their communities.  Under ordinary circumstances, this work is essential to public health and safety, local businesses, and our democracy. But it is more important than ever as our country responds to and recovers from the COVID-19 crisis.

 

In recent years, local news sources have been in an economic freefall. From 2006 to 2017, advertising revenue has fallen from $49 billion to $15.6 billion, combined with a changing online landscape, resulting in mass layoffs or news sources folding altogether.  In the past several years alone, thousands of journalists that work in our communities have lost their jobs. For example, last year, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced another round of layoffs due to advertising losses, reducing its staff by 80% from employment levels just seven years ago.  Just last week, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced that it has reduced its staff to fourteen employees, who were notified that “most will no longer be covering news in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County or for the state of Ohio.”

 

This economic crisis has accelerated in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a coalition of news organizations—including the News Media Alliance, National Newspaper Association, National Association of Broadcasters, and America’s Newspapers—there has been a steep decline in advertising revenue from local businesses shuttering such as retail, restaurants, and more.  Broadcasting alone estimates a minimum loss of at least $3 billion in advertising thus far.

 

The small business provisions enacted as part of the recent stimulus bill provided some relief for select news publishers and broadcasters and many small stations or newspapers have been able to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, but many have not because the eligibility requirements were not inclusive enough to capture them. Hundreds of individual broadcasters and news publishers were not eligible for loan relief because they were affiliated with larger groups whose total employee count was more than 500 spread across various stations or newspapers.

 

We therefore urge you to protect local journalism by clarifying that local news publishers and broadcasters that meet the SBA’s size standards and primarily serve a single community or metropolitan area qualify for the newly established Paycheck Protection Program regardless of their affiliation. Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program—or the appropriate small business spending program in an upcoming stimulus package—to provide small businesses with a direct incentive to keep their workers on the payroll during this crisis. Many local news publishers and broadcasters, however, may sometimes consist of a small team of local journalists, personalities or sales staff that are part of larger ownership groups. Nevertheless, these publishers and broadcasters operate almost entirely locally. In light of this, it is essential that Congress clarifies that loans that are provided under the Paycheck Protection Program are determined on a local and individual basis for news publishers and broadcasters.

 

Importantly, these funds should support local newsgathering—there should be clear guardrails and oversight to ensure they are spent locally.

 

Accurate, reliable, and trustworthy sources of information are vital in this time of need. Congress must do everything possible to protect local news sources during this crisis to safeguard our democracy and keep our communities informed as our nation responds to the crisis. We respectfully urge you to address this issue as part of the appropriate stimulus package.

 

Sincerely,

 

David N. Cicilline

Chairman

House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

 

James Sensenbrenner

Ranking Member

House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

 

Additional Cosigners

 

Rep. Adam Schiff

Rep. Adriano Espaillat

Rep. Alcee Hastings

Rep. Alma S. Adams, Ph.D

Rep. André Carson

Rep. Andy Harris

Rep. Angie Craig

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster

Rep. Anthony Brindisi

Rep. Anthony Brown

Rep. Antonio Delgado

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

Rep. Betty McCollum

Rep. Bill Foster

Rep. Bill Johnson

Rep. Bobby Rush

Rep. Bradley S. Schneider

Rep. Brenda L. Lawrence

Rep. Brendan F. Boyle

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick

Rep. Brian Higgins

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond

Rep. Charlie Crist

Rep. Cherri Bustos

Rep. Collin C. Peterson

Rep. Conor Lamb

Rep. Dan Crenshaw

Rep. Daniel W. Lipinski

Rep. Darin LaHood

Rep. Darren Soto

Rep. David Kustoff

Rep. David Scott

Rep. David Trone

Rep. Dean Phillips

Rep. Deb Haaland

Rep. Denver Riggleman

Rep. Don Bacon

Rep. Don Beyer

Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr

Rep. Donald Norcross

Rep. Doug Collins

Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter

Rep. Ed Case

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Eric Swalwell

Rep. G. K. Butterfield

Rep. George Holding

Rep. Gil Cisneros

Rep. Glenn Grothman

Rep. Grace F. Napolitano

Rep. Grace Meng

Rep. Gregory Meeks

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

Rep. Harley Rouda

Rep. Henry C. Johnson, Jr

Rep. Henry Cuellar

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Rep. J. Luis Correa

Rep. Jahana Hayes

Rep. James P. McGovern

Rep. Jamie Raskin

Rep. Jan Schakowsky

Rep. Jason Smith

Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Rep. Jim Banks

Rep. Jim Costa

Rep. Joe Courtney

Rep. Joe Neguse

Rep. John B. Larson

Rep. John Katko

Rep. Joseph D. Morelle

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, III

Rep. Joyce Beatty

Rep. Juan Vargas

Rep. K. Michael Conaway

Rep. Katherine Clark

Rep. Kathleen M. Rice

Rep. Kelly Armstrong

Rep. Linda T. Sánchez

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester

Rep. Lucy McBath

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge

Rep. Mark Pocan

Rep. Mark Takano

Rep. Markwayne Mullin

Rep. Max Rose

Rep. Mike Bost

Rep. Mike Quigley

Rep. Mikie Sherrill

Rep. Pete Stauber

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky

Rep. Peter King

Rep. Phil Roe, M.D.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi

Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D.

Rep. Rick Crawford

Rep. Rick Larsen

Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott

Rep. Rodney Davis

Rep. Roger Marshall, M.D.

Rep. Ron Kind

Rep. Russ Fulcher

Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr.

Rep. Sean Casten

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney

Rep. Sharice L. Davids

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee

Rep. Steve King

Rep. Steven Horsford

Rep. Susie Lee

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici

Rep. Ted W. Lieu

Rep. Terri Sewell

Rep. TJ Cox

Rep. Tom Cole

Rep. Tom Graves

Rep. Val B. Demings

Rep. Veronica Escobar

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

Rep. Will Hurd