Home>Articles>‘Journalism Usage Fee’ Legislation Passes Assembly Judiciary Committee 9-0

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

‘Journalism Usage Fee’ Legislation Passes Assembly Judiciary Committee 9-0

‘If this passes, she’ll be known as the person who killed local news’

By Evan Symon, May 4, 2023 2:27 am

A bill that would require big tech companies to pay a fee to news outlets for using or posting articles and other local news content advanced in the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier this week, despite a growing movement to either kill the bill or significantly alter it.

Assembly Bill 886, authored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), would specifically have digital advertising companies, such as Google or Facebook, pay for content they use from media outlets. The bill, also known as the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), would pay a “journalism usage fee” to media outlet owners each time local news articles are used by the companies that also sell advertising along with it. Publishers would receive the funds and would then need to invest at least 70% back into funding journalism jobs, such as paying journalists or creating new journalism positions.

Introduced earlier this year, AB 886 quickly gained support in Sacramento with many agreeing with Wicks over compensating news outlets for having articles used online given the significant decline of local newspaper outlets in California in the past decade, largely attributed to a huge loss of print advertising. As newspaper advertising revenues have sunk a total of 66% more, with media outlet employees going down 44%, lawmakers voted for the bill to protect media outlets in the changing market, as  it is projected that regular online advertising not make up for the loss of print advertising for the foreseeable future.

Last month, the bill passed the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee 9-0, with 2 not voting. This, the unanimous vote count continued with AB 886 passing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee 10-0, with one member not voting.

“As news consumption has moved online, community news outlets have been downsized and closing at an alarming rate,” Assemblywoman Wicks said on Tuesday. “The dominant type platforms, both search engines and social networks, have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share the content they produce, which tech companies sell advertising against for almost no compensation in return.”

However, despite the support from lawmakers and  journalism unions, including the News Media Alliance and Media Guild of the West, a growing number of outlets have announced opposition to the bill. Smaller outlets, who would not benefit from the bill, accuse Wicks and others for crafting the bill to only benefit larger outlets while ignoring smaller and more local outlets, the latter of which that are the most at-risk in California.

“Most outlets in California would not benefit from this bill, only the few largest ones which, coincidently, are also the most unionized,” explained online advertising consultant Darren Adams to the Globe on Wednesday. “It’s not that smaller and independent outlets don’t want this bill, they just think that everyone should be covered, especially since smaller outlets are the ones most at-risk. Yeah, the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have a lot of dedicated journalists, but people in the state need local news too, and the bigger outlets rarely cover things in areas with less people despite the stories still being very important. Wicks’ heart was in the right place, especially since this is a bipartisan bill, but it really needs to be fixed to give all outlets a chance to be covered. If this passes, she’ll be known as the person who killed local news.”

The bill is expected to have a vote in the Assembly soon.

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80 thoughts on “‘Journalism Usage Fee’ Legislation Passes Assembly Judiciary Committee 9-0

  1. This is a NO. Hope AB 886 will be pulled or killed. When a bill is so (purposely?) confusing it’s difficult to tease out the motivation, it usually means the result will be the opposite of its “beneficial”-sounding label and description. Meanwhile, it should be tossed or voted down if only because:
    1) It appears that valuable local media will potentially be hurt or killed.
    2) Implementation is suspiciously convoluted, not straightforward.
    3) “Usual Suspect” Asm Buffy Wicks authored it.

      1. Rob, I wonder if you also have noticed “garbage fees” on all of your utility bills now. You know, much like the fees-with-no-names —- that you cannot dispute —- at the close of escrow in the purchase of a house. This is a fairly recent phenomenon in my city. Things like “resident fee” or some such nonsense, added on. Then, because of the Utility Users Tax —- that we previously did not have, but which people voted in years ago because the city threatened loss of essential city services —- local governments are incentivized to push energy and water rates as high as possible. The more expensive the basic bill, the higher the tax on it, the bigger the windfall for the city. In addition, many cities who have their own nominal water and power departments dump their extra revenue, which is a significant amount, into the city’s General Fund. Which clearly shows we are being overcharged for services in the first place. A hidden tax.

  2. Creepy Democrat Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks who previously authored bills in support of infanticide is now pushing Assembly Bill AB 886. Not surprisingly the Democrats on two different Assembly Committees approved it. Why would Democrat lawmakers want to prop up newspapers with? Perhaps Buffy and other Democrats in the legislature are getting payoffs from Democrat propaganda outlets like the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, etc. along with media organizations such as the California News Publishers Association (CNPA) and the News/Media Alliance (NMA)?

  3. This reminds me of the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act, which is a completely dysfunctional law and giveaway to powerful media interests. AHRA royalties never benefit true working musicians.

  4. Same libtard bullshit from the same libtard bullshiters. Government meddling to help big greedy donors while fucking all the competition to the big greedy union donors. “CA democrap politics” at it’s finest!

    1. This is a typical bill catering to the CA political Dem monoculture. Dems love legacy media because they are consistently propagandizing for them. They hate new media because they allow for diverse narratives finding their way to the public, based on what Americans really want to see (and support) instead of what Dems want their corporate friends to disseminate.

      And then there’s yet another payback to union interests who in turn diligently keep Dems enjoying their grip on CA.

      Finally, this is really just a wealth transfer, aka a payoff for votes. A fair solution would be for social media giants to pay the actual content creators, especially the small ones who need it the most, for actual work done. There is no gov’t intervention needed as these are business private dealings between content publishers and platforms. (It’s also worth noting that content creators need the platforms more than the platforms need them). Instead, this money goes into yet another gov’t fund. 30% goes for building even more CA bureaucracy. 70% goes to news corporations. Small publishers get nothing and may well lose the opportunity to promote their work on the platforms.

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