Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), chair of the powerful Senate Commerce Committee, says she is going to push for local broadcast and print media to be considered critical infrastructure that needs preserving.
The Biden Administration has been pushing its massive $1.9 trillion American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill. That plan does not address local journalism as critical infrastructure in need of government support, but Cantwell said it should and she will work to try to make that happen.
During a hearing Thursday (April 15) on vaccine information campaigns, Cantwell pointed out that one of the reasons that the COVID-19 relief paycheck protection program for small businesses was extended to radio and TV, which she advocated for, was because it was a trusted and important source of health information.
She asked witness and former member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Gordon Smith, now president of the National Association of Broadcasters, how important it was to continue to support local broadcasting. Smith suggested it was very important to preserve broadcast revenues as a way to support trusted information, democracy, and the First Amendment.
Smith said he considered broadcasting critical infrastructure when it comes to informing the public during the pandemic and beyond. Cantwell had asked whether he believed that was the case, clearly indicating she felt local TV and print journalism outlets should be treated as critical infrastructure that needed the government's support.
She said that when it comes to the administration's infrastructure investment: "I plan to push this issue as it relates to this critical infrastructure investment we're making. I think local news, particularly, [which is] a trusted source, is frayed beyond belief and if we don't shore it up, at least until the legal battles play out with the tech industry, we will be making a big mistake.
The Big Tech battle was a reference to efforts by online content providers, including broadcast and print journalism outlets, aided by some in Congress including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to grant those providers an antitrust exemption to collectively bargain with big tech platforms for payment of the use of their news product.
Smith and NAB strongly support that effort.
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