Help support local journalism

Joseph Brown | The ItemCongressman Kevin Brady (R-TX 8th) answers questions from local business leaders during an economic update call sponsored by the Huntsville-Walker County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. 

Our members of Congress will soon be asked to consider two bills that could directly affect your local news sources. At The Huntsville Item, we hope you’ll consider urging U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to lend their support for these measures.

The first bill, the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020, was introduced in May as a bipartisan measure in both chambers of Congress. It would basically allow more news publishers to apply for U.S. Small Business Administration loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. Newspapers were designated “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, but many lost as much as half of advertising revenue in the second quarter, according to the News Media Alliance. Still, about 80% of news outlets, including the Register, have been ineligible for PPP loans because they’re owned by larger groups.

The bill would allow local news publishers like us — certain newspapers, radio stations and TV broadcasters — to apply for PPP loans as independent entities even if owned by companies with other small news publishers or non-news businesses. The bill would also restrict those loans so that they’re used only for the individual location they’re intended for, not for the parent company.

The second, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, hasn’t been introduced yet, but Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Arizona, and Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, are planning to introduce it early next week. It would provide a range of tax credits to subscribers, news providers and advertisers to help news outlets keep putting out high-quality, original reporting for local communities.

The legislation would provide three types of tax credits:

—A five-year non-refundable credit of up to $250 annually for individual subscribers to local newspapers. The credit could cover 80% of subscription costs in the first year and half in the following four years.

—A five-year refundable credit, up to $25,000 in the first year and $15,000 in the subsequent four years, for local newspapers to hire and pay journalists.

—A five-year non-refundable tax credit that would give small- to medium-sized businesses an incentive to advertise with local newspapers, radio stations and TV broadcasters. The credit could cover up to $5,000 of advertising costs in the first year and $2,500 in the following four years.

Notice that this particular legislation puts most of the decision-making power into the hands of residents and business owners to support the outlets they rely on most for local news and information. In other words, you — not a bureaucrat — would be trusted to decide which newspapers and radio and TV stations are most important to the civic life of Huntsville and Walker County.

We encourage you to call Brady’s office and ask him to consider co-sponsoring the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, and to call both his office and the offices of Cornyn and Cruz to ask for their support of the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020. Contact information for all three is printed below.