TV cameras
TV cameras at a press conference. iStock photo

A controversial Assembly bill that would tax links to news content on Google, Bing, Facebook and Instagram to support local newspapers and TV stations was held Friday for further study.

Assembly Bill 886, known as the California Journalism Preservation Act, was made a two-year bill by its author Assemblymember Buffy Wicks and Sen. Tom Umberg, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill had been scheduled for a hearing on July 11, but that has been canceled and instead an informational hearing will be held in the fall, followed by a vote in 2024.

“I’ve agreed to make AB 886 a two-year bill In order to ensure the strongest legislation possible — because getting this policy right is more important than getting it quick,” said Wicks, who represents Berkeley and the East San Francisco Bay area.

“My priority is making sure this bill does exactly, and only, what it intends: to support our free press and the democracy sustained by it, to make sure publications get paid what they are owed, and to hold our nation’s largest and wealthiest tech companies accountable for repurposing content that’s not theirs,” she said.

The bill had received strong support from California newspaper companies, but was opposed by online publishers and internet trade groups, such as the Local Independent Online News Publishers.

Facebook and Instagram had threated to end access to news links in California if the bill passed, and Google said it would block news links in Canada after similar legislation was passed by the Canadian parliament.

Wicks’ bill would be the first in the nation to tax large tech companies to support local journalism.

She said the extra year would allow supporters of the bill to “welcome all stakeholders to the table — including Big Tech — to help us get this policy exactly right.”

Umberg said his “greatest concern is that we enact legislation that is fair, and that the benefits in this bill flow specifically to support local journalists — and in turn, all Californians.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.