State agencies could soon be required to spend at least half of their print and digital advertising budgets on locally owned and operated news organizations.
The Connecticut House of Representatives sent House Bill 6347 to the Senate Tuesday that would do just that. It was approved by a 96-48 vote.
“We encourage ourselves to buy local at our local bakery or our local bookstore or our local favorite pizza place,” said Rep. Kate Farrar, D-West Hartford, who introduced the bill.
Farrar said the bill will support local news outlets the same way lawmakers encourage residents to support other local businesses.
Rep. Amy Morrin Bello, D-Wethersfield, and vice chairwoman of the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, said it comes in response to the change in advertising that has forced the news industry to shrink.
Major companies like Google, Apple, and Meta have gobbled up a dominant share of advertising revenue.
This bill would require each state agency to ensure that state agencies spend half of their budget for digital and print locally. The bill allows for advertising with non-profit and Connecticut-owned media outlets.
But Republicans largely opposed the bill. Rep. David Labriola, R-Oxford, said state agencies should be allowed to advertise anywhere they choose.
“I believe that this constitutes a mandate that’s a requirement which interferes with the free market principles,” he said.
But Rep. Timothy Ackert, R-Coventry, noted the Department of Administrative Services said the state is already spending roughly half its print and digital advertising budget on local media. The agency said its current contract spends at least 25% of their advertising budgets with small business entity suppliers.
The bill drew broad support from local newsrooms.
“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,” Anna Bergman, policy director for Rebuild Local News said in written testimony.
The figure refers to the number of newspapers that have closed nationwide. Bergman pointed to examples of voter participation dropping and government borrowing and spending rising in communities that have no local coverage.
She also noted several other states, including Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Washington, have found ways to support local newsrooms, including grants, tax credits or fellowship programs.
CTNewsJunkie also submitted testimony in support of the bill.
The bill does carve out exemptions for advertising for tourism and employee recruitment. Beginning in 2025, DAS would need to file annual compliance reports with lawmakers.