Rebuild Local News Praises California Senate for Passing Local Journalism Bill

In a significant step, the California Senate passed Senator Steve Glazer’s SB1327 today with a bipartisan 27-7 vote, meeting the two-thirds threshold required to pass a tax in California.

The bill would create an employment subsidy, providing $500 million per year for local news, paid for by a fee levied on the biggest technology firms.

It is a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation that would tax Google, Meta and Amazon for the data they use to target their advertisements. The fee would be assessed on digital advertising revenues originating in the state of California, since that’s how these firms monetize the personal data of their users. It is projected to generate $1 billion in revenue, 40% of which would go to public schools in the state of California. 

The remainder would be allocated to local journalism, largely through a refundable tax credit based on the number of journalists outlets have on staff and their compensation. The benefits are allocated on a sliding scale, with the smallest of outlets getting the largest proportion of the salaries they pay to journalists back as a tax credit. The bill also notably includes a proportion of money spent on freelancers into the newsroom benefits. This further tilts the benefits in favor of small publishers, who frequently rely on freelancers as they scale their operations. 

In a statement, Rebuild Local News President Steven Waldman said:

This is a historic milestone. It’s the largest effort in the world proposed to help rebuild local news. It’s the first time that a tech tax has been directed toward local news. It uses a shrewd, First-Amendment-friendly approach that gives extra support to smaller publishers and focuses on the hiring of local reporters.

While further negotiations with various stakeholders are expected, this decisive action sends a powerful message: something must be done, and major tech companies must be part of the solution.

We are so grateful for the efforts of all the Rebuild Local News Coalition members, who worked closely with Senator Glazer and other stakeholders to advocate for fair treatment of smaller publishers and mobilize support for its passage.

The bill now heads to the California Assembly. Meanwhile, the California Journalism Preservation Act, another bill that would compel tech firms to support journalism passed its first Senate committee this week. Rebuild Local News submitted comments praising the progress that was made on that bill as well, especially changes made to focus the benefits on publishers that hire reporters to cover California’s communities. We thank both Sen. Glazer and Asm. Buffy Wicks for their dedication to journalism in California.