Connecticut House Approves Bill to Support Local Newsrooms

Connecticut State Capitol. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

State Rep. Kate Farrar (D-West Hartford, Newington) championed the passage of legislation in the House to require a percentage of state advertising dollars to be spent with local press organizations.

By Ronni Newton

The Connecticut House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday by a vote of 96-48 which would require state agencies to spend at least half of their print and digital advertising budgets with locally-owned or nonprofit media outlets – outside of contracts for tourism or employee recruitment.

“We encourage ourselves to buy local at our local bakery or our local bookstore or our local favorite pizza place,” said Rep. Kate Farrar, according to a report by Mike Savino of CTNewsJunkie.com. Farrar, a Democrat who lives in West Hartford and represents the 20th District, which also includes Newington, introduced the bill.

“I am proud to introduce the proposal passed yesterday in House Bill 6347,” Farrar said Wednesday. “Our local press is an essential cornerstone of our democracy and provides essential information for our civic engagement. “This bill is a simple step for us as a state government to buy local – with our local press,” she said, in much of the same way lawmakers encourage the support of other types of local businesses.

“Taking action to support our local press is crucial to ensure that they continue to inform the public and provide transparency and accountability to the people,” state Rep. Matt Blumenthal (D-Stamford), chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, said Wednesday. “With this bill, we are making a positive step towards reinforcing our local news outlets – and thereby, our democracy.”

Rep. Morrin Bello (D-Wethersfield), vice chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, noted that the large out-of-state advertising platforms have created challenges for local and smaller news outlets, which rely on advertising revenue to support content that is critical for local communities.

A large share of the state’s advertising dollars is currently spent on campaigns through major companies like Google, Apple, and Meta.

According to CTNewsJunkie’s report, House Republicans largely opposed the bill as interference with the principles of free market.

Many local news rooms, including CTNewsJunkie and We-Ha.com, submitted testimony in support of the bill.

“We’ve learned what happens when communities lack local journalism by studying the effects of the closure of more than 2,000 newspapers since 2004,” said Anna Bergman, policy director for Rebuild Local News, in written testimony,

According to Farrar, New York City and Chicago require a portion of their city advertising budgets to be spent locally, and the House passage of H.B. 6347 “demonstrates Connecticut’s commitment to support local news organizations and ensure that our state agencies invest in our Connecticut’s own businesses and nonprofits.”

The bill has been passed to the Senate for consideration.

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