The Fight to Save Local News

11/05/2019

The fight to save local news is again making headlines, with lawmakers trying to juggle competing interests.

A New York Times article on October 21, 2019 titled Local News Is Dying. New York May Try to Pass a Law to Save It outlined a proposal for a groundbreaking bill — the first of its kind — to compel cable companies that operate in New York to offer independent local news that includes news, weather, and public affairs programming. This move was reportedly prompted by Verizon’s announcement that it would close Fios1 News, its “hyperlocal” news network that covers the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and New Jersey.

New Jersey’s Governor also recently took the unprecedented step of allocating state funds to support community journalism, and at the federal level, lawmakers are debating whether to make it easier for news organizations to gain tax-exempt status.

In other words, legislators are waking up to the fact that local news is in danger of extinction and that corporations arguably should be held responsible for providing jobs and supporting “the public interest.”

Detractors of the bill say that cable companies like Verizon would simply pass on the cost of running a local news program to customers on their monthly bills, and that such a move would make the government “an arbiter of news.”

Similarly, news website Axios recently reported about ongoing skirmishes between TV stations and cable and satellite companies in an October 22, 2019 article titled 

The Fight Over Small-Town TV.

Technically, broadcasters aren't supposed to own more than one top-rated outlet in any market, but some are buying multiple stations in smaller markets. The argument is that they must in order to compete with the digital behemoths — along with cable and satellite companies — as they struggle to continue to offer local news. In the article, National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton called it “comical” to think the arrangements are an unfair competitive threat to cable or satellite companies. Now, the FCC is seeking comment on its media ownership rules. 

Healthy debate over the future of local news is always a good thing — and at AffinityX we applaud efforts both at the public and private level to support local media companies.