A thriving newspaper industry provides vital information to communities across California.
The state legislature can safeguard the future of print journalism by enacting AB 1506. Readers who believe local news is important for staying informed of local, regional and national events should urge their representatives to support the draft. act and send it to Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.
The legislation, drafted by Assembly Member Ash Kalra D-San Jose, would extend the existing one-year exemption for AB 5 newspaper carriers for an additional three years. The newspaper industry needs time to adjust to the financial impact of the pandemic and the ongoing transformation towards digital news delivery.
Newsom enacted AB 5 in 2019. The bill created a new test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The legislation has reclassified hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs as company employees covered by labor law. This included the thousands of newspaper carriers who deliver newspapers to neighborhoods across California.
AB 5, written by Congresswoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, included exemptions for accountants, architects, doctors and lawyers, but ignored the reality that today’s carriers regularly make deliveries for more than a newspaper. If they were forced to become classified employees of a single newspaper, it would both limit the opportunities for carriers and significantly increase the cost of delivering newspapers. The legislation would force some newspapers to completely eliminate their print products. Others would deliver their papers by mail or simply reduce delivery routes, depriving readers of timely access to news essential to a well-functioning democracy.
Gonzalez granted a one-year last-minute exemption to newspaper carriers when passing AB 170 at the close of the 2019 session. The exemption was extended for one year in 2020 and is now expected expire on January 1, 2022.
Times are tough for the newspaper industry. The Pew Research Center reported on June 29 that the total estimated advertising revenue for the newspaper industry in 2020 was $ 8.8 billion, down 29% from 2019. Newspaper circulation has fallen by 8% in 2020, according to Pew. Yet the Nieman Journalism Lab notes that in 2019, newspapers accounted for almost 60% of the reporting generated in their communities and that “local newspapers produced more local reports in the communities we studied than television, radio and online media only combined. . “
As wildfires and the pandemic continue to threaten the well-being of Californians, it is critical that newspapers retain the ability to report critical information statewide. Elderly, low-income and rural readers rely on the print newspaper as their only form of community information.
Friday is the last deadline for the Legislative Assembly to decide on pending bills.
The Senate passed AB 1506 by a 37-0 vote on Wednesday. He now walks to the Assembly Work Committee, then to the Assembly floor.
The legislature should grant the three-year exemption and the governor should sign the bill.