Today, Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Marc Veasey (D-TX) reintroduced the “Future of Local News Act” to establish a nonpartisan committee of journalism, research and civil society experts to study the state of local news and offer recommendations for the actions Congress can take to support it.
The bill outlines how the independent committee would examine the factors driving the disappearance of local news outlets in every community — from rural, urban, and Tribal communities to Black and non-English speaking communities — and assess the sufficiency of the critical information required to support a thriving democracy. The committee would also evaluate the effectiveness of existing Federal programs in supporting the production of local news and determine if the Federal Government should institute new policy solutions. The work of the committee would likely build upon the insights from a report from the Senate Commerce Committee in October of 2020.
More than three million Americans lack access to a local paper while many more are limited to just one local outlet, and the pandemic has only accelerated the demise of the local news industry. Public Knowledge applauds these senators and Rep. Veasey for calling for this study and urges Congress to support committee efforts to investigate how the lack of local news outlets is hurting democracy — and Americans.
The following can be attributed to Lisa Macpherson, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge:
“The Future of Local News Act would create a forum and process to generate a shared understanding of the contributors to the local news crisis — and why it matters so much. The committee would bring together a broad array of stakeholders from a range of disciplines with the expertise necessary to not only examine the contributors to the crisis, but also frame policies and mechanisms to help save local news while protecting editorial independence.
“As Public Knowledge has written in the past, to promote a vibrant American democracy, we must also support its essential pillars, one of which is a free press. This bill provides an opportunity to develop structural solutions to the local news crisis, but it should not delay action in the near-term. There are a number of complementary policy proposals worthy of consideration for action now.”
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