Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have lent their support to new legislation that would help support local journalism by offering limited-time tax credits to newspapers, their subscribers and their advertisers.
HR 7640, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, was introduced July 16 by its lead sponsors, Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. Fifteen other members of the House of Representatives — 10 Democrats and five Republicans — have joined them as co-sponsors.
Supporters say the bill would extend a lifeline to newspapers pummeled by falling advertising revenues during the COVID-19 crisis.
The president and CEO of the News Media Alliance trade group, David Chavern, said in an online post the bill would "help ensure local news publishers survive the current crises, and that they are around to cover the next ones."
"We applaud Representatives Kirkpatrick and Newhouse — and the bipartisan group of their colleagues who have joined them as original co-sponsors — for their leadership in helping to sustain local journalism and preventing further closings of local news publishing businesses and the growth of news deserts across the country," he wrote.
The bill would make tax credits available for up to five years to subscribers, advertisers, and print or online publications with more than half their readership located in their state or within 200 miles.
Subscribers would receive a credit of up to 80 percent of their subscription costs the first year, followed by 50 percent each of the following four years. Annual, nonrefundable credits would be capped at $250.
Advertisers would be eligible for nonrefundable tax credits of up to $5,000 the first year and no more than $2,500 in each of the next four years. Up to 80 percent of advertising dollars spent the first year would be credited, and after that the ceiling would be 50 percent.
Only advertisers with less than 1,000 employees would qualify. In this case, eligible local media would include radio and television stations with at least 90 percent of their audience within a 50-mile radius.
The proposal would give newspapers direct support in the form of a refundable payroll tax credit worth no more than $50,000 during each of the bill's five years.
Publications could claim a credit of up to $25,000 per qualified journalist in the first year and up to $15,000 each in the next four years. It would cover up to half a newspaper employee's salary the first year and would be capped at 30 percent the next four years.
Besides Kirkpatrick and Newhouse, House members backing the bill are Reps. Andre Carson, D-Ind.; Rodney Davis, R-Ill.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.; Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Josh Harder, D-Turlock; Denny Heck, D-Wash.; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; David McKinley, R-W.Va.; Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Thomas Suozzi, D-N.Y.; Mark Takano, D-Riverside; Pete Visclosky, D-Ind.; Randy Weber, R-Texas; and Peter Welch, D-Vt.