Skip Navigation
Get updates:

We respect your privacy

Thanks for signing up!

SACRAMENTO — On Tuesday, the California Legislature’s Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection will convene a hearing on the California Journalism Preservation Act (the “CJPA”). The legislation — whose proponents include large corporate media outlets that have a proven record of divestment in journalism — is modeled in many respects after failed federal legislation, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which faced strong opposition from civil- and digital-rights groups, small publishers and community advocates.

The California bill would break the open internet, make it harder for websites to remove hateful content, and provide giant giveaways to the same corporate conglomerates and hedge funds that have destroyed local news.

The CJPA would take an as-yet undetermined percentage of large internet platforms’ advertising revenues, and distribute that money as “journalism usage fee” payments to “eligible digital journalism providers” based purely on the number of views they get. There is no requirement that these providers be located in California. The bill requires only that 25 percent of an eligible journalism provider’s editorial content consist of information “about topics of current local, national, or international public interest” — but doesn’t specify how to identify what information meets that test.

Because its payments are based solely on popularity, the CJPA would reward the worst kinds of content. The bill would also make it harder for platforms to protect users and the public from the spread of hateful and deceitful content, resulting in an internet ecosystem where more hate speech, misinformation and sensationalist clickbait proliferate online and are rewarded.

Prior to today’s committee hearing, Free Press Action sent a letter to Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee members urging them to rethink the CJPA’s approach and make fundamental changes to the legislation before moving it forward.  

Free Press Action Senior Director of Journalism and Civic Information Mike Rispoli said:

“Not all policies to support local news are good ones. Unfortunately, lawmakers in California have devised a bad solution. The California Journalism Preservation Act fails to properly address the causes of the state’s journalism crisis: namely, a lack of market incentive to produce public-interest journalism, runaway media consolidation, mismanagement, and changing consumer habits.

“While the legislation may help generate some revenue for more established news outlets — including those that are already quite profitable — it isn’t designed to promote public-interest journalism and journalists, or the sorts of community-centered news and information that we need most.

“Californians need better access to high-quality local reporting to participate in civic affairs, share their stories, connect with fellow community members and ensure public accountability. The destruction of local news across the state threatens the most fundamental of civic democratic values. Moreover, these deprivations have fallen hardest on poor people, people of color, rural communities and non-English speakers. But the CJPA wouldn’t address these problems. 

“To make matters worse, the CJPA has the potential to incentivize and even mandate financial support for hateful and misleading content that social-media platforms would otherwise refuse to link to or amplify. It would also threaten the architecture of the open internet by giving content creators unprecedented rights to compensation when others merely link or point to their work.

“We commend the committee’s interest in addressing the local-journalism crisis. But legislation that primarily benefits TV conglomerates, hedge funds, out-of-state publications and all manner of large publishers producing low-quality content will not address the real problem. California residents need policies that would expand public-interest journalism and increase the number of journalists covering their communities. They do not need a bill that would exacerbate the spread of online hate and misinformation and make it harder for people to access trustworthy news.”

Read this analysis for more details on the California legislation.

More Press Releases