House Passes Law Protecting Journalists From Government Overreach

U.S. Capitol
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Broadcasters are finding they increasingly have the government's backing when it comes to promoting the importance of local news and information.

The House has just passed the Protect Reporters from Exploitative State Spying (PRESS) Act (H.R. 4250), which protects journalists from government attempts to compel them to reveal sources or to access their work product.

Cable broadband operators would also benefit because the bill protects broadband and phone-service providers from having to reveal the contents of documents or communications created by journalists, with carveouts for imminent harm or terrorism.

That move comes as Congress continues to consider a bill that would allow broadcasters and other news outlets to collectively negotiate payment from websites for the right to aggregate and reuse their valuable content, and as the Federal Communications Commission is proposing to require rebates from MVPDs when subscribers lose access to their TV stations’ local news and information and other content due to retransmission consent-related blackouts.

The FCC also voted to incentivize broadcast local news production by prioritizing applications for new stations or license transfers from broadcasters who certify that they provide locally originated programming.

The PRESS Act must still pass the Senate, but the National Association of Broadcasters was praising the important House vote.

“NAB applauds the House for passing the PRESS Act, underscoring the vital importance of freedom of the press,” NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt said. “This legislation acknowledges the critical role of journalists in our democracy — from exposing injustices to educating and informing the public. The PRESS Act protects journalists' ability to maintain confidential sources, ensuring they can perform their duties without the threat of retaliation.”

He urged the Senate to “quickly” pass the bill. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.