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Why support for local media in the U.S. is welcomed despite concerns about damaging media independence

As the ‘ Build Back Better ‘ bill proposed by US President Joe Biden last year included measures to support local media, the US has actively discussed local media at the federal level. Although it was not passed during the budget negotiation process, it is meaningful in that it established a framework for supporting local media. After the actual bill was proposed, some states implemented support measures such as tax credits, and the ‘Community News and Small Business Support Act’ was issued

The reason that the United States, which had taboo on public support for the media, came up with a plan to support local media was because the phenomenon of ‘news desertification’ in the region was so severe. According to a Northwestern University report, among the 3,143 counties in the United States in 2020, there were about 200 counties without local newspapers. Penny Abernathy, a professor at Northwestern University, said in an interview with Media Today, “I believe that approximately one-fifth of the U.S. population, or 70 million out of 330 million people, do not have access to comprehensive information.” As the seriousness of the situation became known, the ‘ Local Journalism Sustainability Act

‘ was proposed in the House of Representatives in 2020, but was not passed. Afterwards, the same bill was proposed in 2021, and this time it passed the House of Representatives, but was rejected again during the final budget negotiations. The plan is to provide approximately $1.7 billion (approximately 2 trillion won) to local media over five years.

as a follow – up bill last month .

Because direct support from the government can undermine the independence of the press, we focused on ‘indirect support’. The method is to solve the manpower shortage by providing tax credits to media outlets that hire local reporters. Since 2004, the number of American journalists has decreased by more than 50%. Under the 2021 bill, media outlets that hire local reporters can receive up to $25,000 per reporter in the first year and $15,000 in each of the next four years. There are also support criteria. Media supported by a ‘political action committee’ ( PAC ) are not eligible, and the same goes for media that does not disclose its owners. Media with more than 750 employees are also not eligible for support.

In addition, the initial bill includes a tax credit of 80% for local newspaper subscription costs (the first year only, 50% thereafter) and a tax credit for local media advertising costs for small businesses ($5,000 in the first year, up to $2,500 thereafter). Afterwards, various media organizations issued statements supporting the bill. David Chaven, chairman of the News Media Alliance , which includes about 2,000 media outlets in the U.S. and Canada, said, “Local media has been hit hard by a decline in local advertising,” and added, “This bill will help local media survive the current crisis.” “This will help ensure that we can cope with the next crisis.”

Of course, there are also negative views. In a situation where the media has already become a source of profit for hedge funds and other companies, quality journalism that has disappeared will not return even if the government supports it. Howard Saltz, a professor of journalism at Florida International University, said at Poynter , an American media research institute, “The Local Media Sustainability Act is an empty promise that is ineffective,” and added, “Media owners can just leave the situation as is and take taxpayers’ money.” “The law requires the government to send money to the greed mongers who are destroying our newspapers, but there is no mandatory rule that they must use that money to sustain local journalism.”

In addition to the ‘Local Media Sustainability Act’, the ‘Journalism Competition and Preservation Act ’ was also proposed last year. This is a bill that grants digital news content providers, such as local media, the authority to collectively negotiate with online platforms such as Google. Although this also failed to pass the congressional threshold, it was the result of concerns about the media, which was in crisis due to a decline in advertising and subscription revenue over the years.

After the bill was proposed, various ways to support local media began to be studied. The non-profit organization Rebuild Local News selected eight support measures that can be implemented at the public level. △Tax credits for small businesses that advertise in local media △Tax credits for retaining or hiring local reporters △Consumer subsidies for subscribing to or donating to local media △More government advertising targeting to local media △Direct subsidies for journalism projects by independent organizations △Local communities These include providing incentives for institutions to subscribe to newspapers and expanding broadband (high-speed data communication networks).

Some states are implementing the mentioned support measures. New York, New Jersey, Virginia, California, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Washington are implementing or discussing state-level local media support measures. For example, New Jersey became the first state to allocate taxes to local media with the 2018 New Jersey Civic Information Bill . As of 2023, $3 million in funds are being distributed to 14 local media, and a 16-member non-profit committee made up of representatives from each university, media, community, and student processes the funds in accordance with journalistic standards.

In addition, New York and Chicago allocated먹튀검증 state advertising dollars to struggling local media, and California approved a fellowship program worth $25 million. Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, etc. have discussed tax credits for subscriptions and salaries mentioned in the ‘Local Media Sustainability Act’.

David Lappe, dean of the University of Texas School of Journalism, said in an interview with Media Today, “Local politicians need local media because their words cannot be heard by citizens without the media. They are very interested in supporting local media. Moreover, New Jersey “is a state with a progressive tendency. Places with relatively strong conservative tendencies are less willing to support local media,” he said.

Last month, the ‘ Community News and Small Business Support Act ‘, a successor to the ‘Local Media Sustainability Act’, was proposed. As with the previous bill, it provides local media with a tax credit of $25,000 per reporter in the first year and $15,000 for each of the next four years. Tax credits for small businesses that advertise in local media also remain the same. Local media advertising companies can receive a tax credit of up to $5,000 in the first year and $2,500 over the next four years. However, the consumer tax credit for local newspaper subscription costs was omitted due to management difficulties.

Democratic Rep. Susan DelBene, one of the co-sponsors, said in an interview with the Seattle Times, “We have bipartisan support, but things in Congress don’t always work predictably. We need continued and consistent support. So it’s unlikely that the bill will pass yet.” “However, we will continue to secure support so that it can pass the House, the Senate, and reach the President’s desk,” he said. “This law will be helpful to both sides, including promoting small businesses and securing revenue for newspapers.”

U.S. regional media reporting team Soo-hyun Yoon, Yu-kyung Yoon, and Jae-ryeong Park

<This project was supported by the Press Promotion Fund raised through government advertising fees.>

<Visit the site of news desertification in the U.S.> Table of contents of special articles① Local media crisis and news desertification becoming a reality② Wisconsin residents alienated from local newspapers amid news desertification③ Texas Valverde, newspaper closed after 130 years, how to overcome desertification④ Wisconsin local media How to respond to news desertification⑤ ‘Community impact’ to respond to the local media crisis by expanding⑥ Efforts to revive local media in the United States⑦ How to overcome the disappearance of local media in the United States, if applied to Korea

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