NY, IL latest to pass legislation to support local news

New York, Illinois latest states to pass legislation to support local news as states experiment with new policy solutions for local news

By Jessica Mahone, CISLM research director

Public policy interventions in support of local news continue to pick up steam in state legislatures, as state-level advocacy efforts have increased and the news business has grown ever more precarious.

Since the last bill tracker update in August 2023, 22 more bills have been introduced in state legislatures, and another three have been passed, including New York’s Newspaper and Broadcast Media Jobs program, the first-of-its-kind tax incentive. In addition, legislation introduced in Illinois and California proposes three new types of support for local news.

The flurry of legislation — some successful, some not — provides continued context and data about what kinds of policy interventions are likely to be passed and which will have impact on local news ecosystems.

Cover image for the Government Support vertical on CISLM.org, Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media. The image features the text 'Government Support: Tracking how lawmakers are supporting local news at state and national levels,' accompanied by the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media logo. The background includes hexagonal images of the U.S. Capitol, an empty legislative chamber, and colorful state map cutouts.
This is part of our vertical on government support in local news. Explore our trackers for the statewide and national levels, as well as more reporting.

Here is a summary of activity in state legislature in the latter half of the 2023-2024 legislative sessions:

  • Washington’s legislature voted to extend the expiration date of a tax break for newspapers for another 10 years.
  • New York’s most recent budget included $90 million to pay for tax credits over the next three years for local news organizations to hire and retain reporters.
  • The Illinois legislature has passed the Strengthening Community Media Act which includes $25 million in tax credits for newsrooms, a 120-day waiting period for the sale of newspapers to out-of-state buyers, and a scholarship for college students who agree to work in an Illinois newsroom for two years after graduation.
  • Legislation introduced in California would create tax credits for local news organizations and would pay for those credits through a new tax on companies that engage in data extraction for advertising purposes.

We have also made some changes to our labeling of types of support. Previously, fellowship and grant programs were listed as “general funding.” We have now relabeled this as “Fellowships & Grants.” Additionally, we have updated the tracker to tag more than one type of support as more recent legislation has been combining multiple approaches. For example, the Strengthening Community Media Act in Illinois proposed four different types of support for local newsrooms and has been tagged for each.

Tax Incentives

Tax incentives are one of the most commonly proposed types of support for local news in legislation introduced in state houses. New York, Illinois, and Washington state have all passed some type of tax incentive bill. Since 2017, legislators in 11 states have introduced 21 bills proposing some type of tax incentive to support local news— to news organizations for hiring reporters, to small businesses for advertising in local media, or to individuals for subscribing to local newspapers. Five tax incentive bills have been introduced in 2024: Illinois, California, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York.

New York: As part of the state’s budget, the New York legislature created the Newspaper and Broadcast Jobs Program which will provide tax credits to news organizations for hiring and retaining reporters. It’s the first tax incentive of its kind passed in any state, but it isn’t without its challenges.

The final bill provides a credit towards news organizations’ income or corporate franchise tax, therefore disqualifying nonprofit news organizations who do not pay these taxes. Additionally, news organizations owned by publicly traded companies are also disqualified, which means many TV stations will be ineligible as well, contrary to the program’s name. Advocates say the specifics of qualification of newsrooms will depend on the determination of state regulators.

Illinois: The Illinois legislature passed the Strengthening Community Media Act at the end of May. Among other things, this bill includes $25 million over five years in tax credits for local news organizations that hire and retain reporters. The credit is available to both for-profit and nonprofit news organizations with at least one employee.

Washington: Last year, legislators in Washington state passed legislation allowing news organizations to keep their exemption from the state’s business and occupancy tax through the end of 2034.

California: A bill introduced in the California state senate proposes a tax credit for news organizations and paying for that credit with a new tax on companies that engage in data extraction to sell digital ads. The bill proposes tax credits of up to 35% of wages paid on news organization’s income and franchise taxes, including $25 million specifically for nonprofit news organizations.

Fellowship & Grant Programs

In 2023, fellowship programs were gaining in popularity with the legislatures in California, Washington, and New Mexico all passing bills to support such programs. However, it appears that momentum for such programs has slowed down. Five bills proposing funding for fellowship programs were introduced in Wisconsin and New Mexico in 2024. All four bills in Wisconsin failed, and the New Mexico legislature has postponed consideration of its local news fellowships bill.

Legislation in the Maryland legislature proposes a grant program to help small businesses offset costs for advertising in local media. That bill is currently in committee. In total, 21 local news bills in eight states have proposed a fellowship or grant program to provide support to local news since 2017.

Advertising Set-Asides

Five bills in three states have proposed requiring state agencies to allocate a set proportion of their advertising expenditures, usually 50%, to local media. So far, no state has passed legislation that does this. The original bill for Illinois’ Strengthening Community Media Act included an advertising set-aside, but it was cut from the final bill due to pushback from agencies about disclosing all of their advertising expenditures.

There have not been any new bills proposing task forces or commissions since the last update although the Illinois Local Journalism Task Force published its final report and recommendations in January 2024.

And there has been little movement on bills that would require platforms such as Google and Meta to pay a portion of their ad revenue to publishers. California’s Journalism Preservation Act has been in committee since July of last year. A bill introduced in the Illinois legislature proposed that platforms pay publishers a percentage of their advertising revenue, but that bill is not moving forward in the legislature.

New Types of Support

Legislation introduced in Illinois and California over the past nine months has included some new strategies for providing support for local news.

Illinois’ Strengthening Community Media Act includes a 120-day waiting period before the sale of a newspaper to an out-of-state buyer. Supporters of this measure call this a “replanting” strategy, where a local buyer will have the chance to buy a newspaper before an out-of-state buyer does. It’s unclear what kind of impact this provision would have: first, it may result in the closure of independently owned newspapers by further deterring buyers, and second, in-state ownership is not necessarily the same as local ownership.

The Strengthening Community Media Act takes a different approach from states such as California, Washington, and New Mexico in addressing the loss of journalism professionals in the state by creating a scholarship program. The program would give recipients a college scholarship in exchange for two years of service as a reporter in a local newsroom in the state.

In addition to providing tax credits for local news media, California’s SB1327 would also establish a new tax on platforms such as Google and Meta, called the Data Extraction Mitigation Fee, that would offset those credits as well as provide money to the state’s existing local news programs, including its fellowship program. The tax would be 7.25% on all online advertising revenue above $2.5 billion annually. The bill has been ordered to its third reading in the state senate, the final reading and vote before it will move forward to the state assembly.

In addition to the legislation above, public notice in Virginia was recently amended to include online-only publications, opening up a source of revenue to more news organizations. Public notice legislation has been outside the scope of this project because it is not proposed specifically as a support for local news. Most recent legislation would amend existing public notice laws in a way that would take revenue away from local news organizations. However, this is another avenue of policy worth keeping an eye on.