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Sustainability Act Would Offer Tax Credit for Local Journalist Hires

The NAB is encouraging its broadcast members to press Congress to support the legislation

Washington, CapitolLegislation being considered in the House and Senate could help local media outlets hire and retain skilled local journalists — and the National Association of Broadcasters is asking radio and TV broadcasters to press their Congressional leaders to take action.

Introduced this summer, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is designed to help local news outlets keep local journalists on staff by providing tax credits to local media outlets that hire local reporters. A recent briefing on the NAB website titled “What Would the Local Journalism Sustainability Act Mean for Your Station,” NAB Executive Vice President of Government Relations Shawn Donilon suggested stations press their members of Congress to support the inclusion of the act as part of the current budget reconciliation package. Such a move would help stations continue to deliver both trustworthy local news and vital investigative journalism to local communities, Donilon said.

The legislation is designed to support local news production through a series of tax credits, including a local news subscription credit, a local newspaper and local media advertising credit and the local news journalist compensation credit — the latter of which is gaining significant traction in Washington, Donilon said. This item is designed to give any broadcast station that employs local journalists — defined as those who do original reporting, design or technology support for their local station and work more than 100 hours per quarter — credit for 50% of an employee’s compensation (up to $50,000) in the first year and credit for 30% of an employee’s compensation (also up to $50,000) in the subsequent four years.

The proposed legislation has a cap of 1,500 employees for any individual company, although negotiations on Capitol Hill are ongoing in regard to the size and scope of the policies, Donilon said.

It’s time for NAB members to reach out to their Congressional members and press them to support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act in the budget reconciliation package, he said. Support for the act already exists by senators like Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, who has said that local news needs to be supported and protected. “At its core, local news is about holding the powerful accountable,” she said. “The strength of our democracy is based in truth and transparency and local newsrooms are on the ground in our communities asking the critical questions, countering misinformation and telling our stories.”

Passage of this legislation could have a significant impact on broadcasters as they work to keep their newsroom staff on payroll, Donilon said. In addition to a recent blog post by the NAB, Donilon suggested broadcasters voice their supports for the act by emailing legislators prepared text outlining why local radio and TV matter.

The legislation also has garnered support from state broadcast associations, media organizations like the News Media Alliance and organizations representing journalists like the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and Native Public Media.