WASHINGTON—News outlets and journalists—in TV, radio and print—have proven crucial in providing information during the current coronavirus crisis. Now NewsGuild-CWA, a union of journalists and communication professionals in North America, is calling on Congress to adopt provisions in future stimulus packages to help protect these new operations.
With COVID-19 causing many businesses to shut down, advertising revenue for many news networks has been significantly impacted. Large media companies, like Gannett, have announced furloughs or layoffs of employees, causing some news operations to work with reduced staffs.
As a way to try and prevent the weakening of news broadcast services, the NewsGuild Executive Council unanimously approved a resolution calling for federal, state and local governments to provide public funds and incentives to keep news operations running.
“We cannot stand by and let news organizations in our communities die,” said Jon Schleuss, NewsGuild president. “Public stimulus funds are the only way to ensure the long-term viability of the news organizations people rely on.”
The resolution calls for the acknowledgement that local, regional and national journalism is recognized as an essential service; that the federal government should establish a publicly-financed fund to support newsrooms and media workers; that employers taking public funds be politically independent, demonstrate financial need, make no layoffs/furloughs/paycuts or interfere with workers’ rights and promote diversity and equity; and other organizational requirements. The full list of demands is available online.
The $2 trillion stimulus package that was passed in March offered provisions that could impact broadcasters—though in most cases not directly because of the service they provided—including allowing businesses with fewer than 500 employees to access forgivable Small Business Administration loans; the deferral of payroll taxes; unemployment benefits and more.
NewsGuild-CWA also launched a petition to drum up community support for its proposal.
“Our country needs a strong free and independent press to provide reliable information and hold our leaders accountable, Schleuss said. “It’s urgent that we take action to protect it.”
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