A letter to LION members about the Journalism Competition Preservation Act and the Online News Act

Our Executive Director Chris Krewson explains why LION opposes these two legislative proposals in the U.S. and Canada.

September 5, 2022 by Chris Krewson

LION Publishers blue logo

LION members,

I’m writing to inform you about a pending pair of legislative measures that have the potential to affect your businesses; the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act in the United States, and the Online News Act in Canada. There are some differences between them, but their stated purpose is to help local news.

I regret to inform you that, on the whole, they will not. Yes, they will help some family-owned newspaper companies slow their decline, and perhaps some of our larger members will gain some much-needed revenue – and I am glad for those businesses.

Still, the bills are part of an international legislative push to extract revenue from the platforms that have succeeded in capturing the bulk of digital advertising dollars. (You may have seen this effort in Australia, which proved to be a testing ground of sorts.) 

In my view, though, these measures are written to redistribute those advertising dollars to qualifying publishers and broadcasters – and as you might imagine based on the lobbying dollars involved, there are several disqualifying measures for any organization that’s not a large legacy print or broadcast business.

Why do I think these bills are dangers to the local news ecosystem you all are building every day?

I have many concerns with the reasoning behind this legislation, but it’s important to share with you that neither bill mandates that payments from platforms be spent on journalism. In a time when more than half of U.S. newspapers, by circulation, are owned by hedge funds or other financial interests, chances are slim that payments would be spent on re-seeding the news deserts that these same conglomerates have spent years withdrawing from.

Second, communities have no say in how these dollars would be spent. Many of the news deserts in the U.S. and Canada lost reporting resources because these businesses found those communities less profitable to operate within. Without input from places that are starved for news and information, how exactly do payments to these large conglomerates do anything to preserve journalism?

Finally, nearly half of LION members won’t see a dime from either measure. The JCPA, in particular, does not apply to news organizations that have been in business for less than a year, and it excludes news businesses that earn less than $100,000 per year. As of 2021, 44 percent of LION members earned less than that.

Who benefits from these efforts? For the most part, it’s the largest legacy publishers – including those who have strip-mined reporters from communities in the name of 20-30 percent profit margins, sending more money out of those towns and boroughs in order to boost profits for a corporate bottom line elsewhere.

If you’re inclined to do so, contact your local Senators and Congressman, or Member of Parliament. Educate them about the important work you’re doing to build a future for local news; remind them that the companies with their hands out are the ones that spent decades ignoring their businesses and cutting journalism away from communities, leading to the crisis we face today. 

Thank you for reading, and for your work every day.

Chris Krewson

Executive Director
LION Publishers

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