Hoping to save local news outlets whose advertising revenues have plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic, the WGA East is supporting the Future of Local News Commission Act, which was introduced today in the U.S. Senate.
The proposed law would create a commission of 13 members to examine the implications to America’s democracy if the public does not have access to local newspapers, digital sites and broadcasting outlets in every state and territory; in rural, urban, suburban and tribal communities; and those serving Black and non-English-speaking communities.
If the bill is adopted, the commission would assess the effectiveness of existing federal laws, institutions and programs in support of the production of local news and provide recommendations on whether the federal government should create and implement a program that would be structured and financed in such a way to ensure the editorial integrity of local news outlets, while keeping them free from governmental or political control.
“Coronavirus is decimating newsrooms that already faced enormous economic challenges,” said WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson. “The Future of Local News Commission Act is a safeguard to study how to ensure that there are sufficient resources to provide reliable, useful information to the American people – information about local businesses, sports, culture, public policy, and more. We are thankful to the bill’s sponsors – Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) – for including digital-native, broadcast and print newsrooms in this legislation. We hope the Senate adopts the bill so the commission can get to work as quickly and effectively as possible.”
Other organizations supporting the legislation include PEN America, Local Independent Online News Publishers, Alliance for Community Media, National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Ethnic Media Services, Online News Association, Free Press Action, National Society of Newspaper Columnists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, National Press Photographers Association, Native American Journalists Association, Society for News Design, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, American Journalism Project, Pulitzer Center, the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees, the NewsGuild and the Colorado Media Project.