More than 30 publishers, journalists, and readers testify in favor of an advertising set-aside in Connecticut

The policy would direct 50% of state digital advertising dollars to locally owned and operated Connecticut news outlets.

Connecticut lawmakers heard testimony from local news advocates, publishers, and readers on March 20 relating to a bill that would allocate a portion of state digital advertising dollars to locally-owned news outlets. 

If passed, the bill, HB 6347, would require state agencies to spend 50% of their digital advertising expenditures with locally-owned news outlets like the Republican American in Waterbury, the Record Journal in Meriden, and Connecticut’s state-wide nonprofit newsroom CT Mirror. State agencies could still spend advertising dollars in publications like the Hartford Courant or with major platforms as long as the mandated proportions outlined in the bill are met. 

The bill could make it out of the Government Administration and Elections Committee as early as next week. 

A similar policy was first passed via executive order in New York City in 2019. The result was hundreds of thousands of dollars to small, community news outlets in the city–and many city agencies spent much more of their advertising budgets than the mandated 50%. The program became permanent law in 2021. 

If passed, Connecticut would be the first state to implement the program, though California and Colorado have both considered the policy prior. Connecticut’s approach, however, is unique in that it would only benefit news outlets that are owned and operated in the state. 

Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford) introduced the bill. In her written testimony on behalf of the bill, she wrote that HB 6347 would support the viability of the local press.

“It would promote diversity in the media landscape by providing support to smaller new organizations that may have a harder time competing with larger, more established outlets,” Farrar wrote. “Finally, it would help ensure that our state government is investing in advertising that supports the public good.” 

Readers of Connecticut newsrooms wrote in, calling on legislators to support the measure. 

“As news outlets continue to be decimated, and it becomes increasingly hard to stay informed about the local issues that determine our lives and livelihoods, Nancy on Norwalk and Connecticut Mirror are vital to the communities they serve,” a Norwalk resident wrote. “As taxpayers we request that the state please support their valuable, true journalism with advertising dollars.” 

In addition to readers, journalists and news outlets also weighed in with committee members. Anne Karolyi, managing editor of the Republican American in Waterbury, Connecticut, wrote that, if passed, the measure could mean raises for talented reporters, more reporters to cover more communities throughout Connecticut, and the development of more beats that have been abandoned by weakened metro dailies. 

“Thank you for your consideration,”  Karolyi wrote. “And thanks for reading, and supporting, your local newspaper – if your town still has one.”