More must be done to preserve local news in local communities, especially in light of unfair competition and the bulk of misinformation that is often erroneously reported as news — that was the sentiment expressed by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) during a one-on-one chat with NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. Cantwell, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, spoke to Smith after giving a keynote address at the NAB’s 2021 virtual State Leadership Conference.
At the virtual conference, Cantwell spoke about the important role that radio and TV broadcasters play in reporting legitimate news; in her mind they are part of our nation’s critical infrastructure.
Along those lines, she also announced her intention to propose a tax credit and grant program totaling $2.3 billion to support local journalism through the next few years.
“My message today is that local broadcasting continues to play an important role in creating trust in the United States of America,” she said during the interview with Smith. But it’s all too clear that TV stations, radio stations and newspapers face serious hardships caused both by major changes in information age and from the coronavirus, she said.
Although Congress passed the CARES Act in late 2020 to help support broadcasters through tax changes, small business loans and employee retention credits, the fight to protect journalism must continue, she said, as local broadcasters continue to shed jobs and fight stiff competition from digital native sources.
“Broadcast journalism and news journalism are part of [our] critical infrastructure,” Cantwell said, saying that the $2.3 billion in tax credits and grants to ensure that local journalism continues to thrive.
Under Cantwell’s plan, tax credits would help preserve the existing broadcast workforce and a grant program that would help broadcasters who are looking to rehire.
Smith asked Cantwell why she thought that local journalism qualifies as part of our critical infrastructure. “You provide information and challenges to other information that’ s inaccurate,” she said. “It’s an ecosystem that needs to be preserved.”
“What I really appreciate about broadcast journalism and local news in particular is that it is what holds us together,” she said. “It is what puts the eyes on our local legislators and our governments. And without that we’d really have a deterioration of our communities. It’s something we have to fight for.”
The NAB State Leadership Conference, an annual gathering of several hundred station owners and executives, provides updates on current legislative and regulatory issues facing TV and radio broadcasters.