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Measure requiring 120-day notice of local media sales passes Illinois Senate

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(The Center Square) – A measure prohibiting local news organizations from selling to out-of-state buyers without 120 days written notice of the sale to the state and their employees has passed the Illinois Senate.

State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said in an effort to address what he said is a shrinking local media landscape, Illinois should pass the “Strengthening Community Media Act” found in Senate Bill 3592. One element of the bill requires 120-day written notice to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the company’s employees if a local media outlet is looking to sell.

“Private equity firms are coming and buying newspapers, consolidating them until they provide very little local news content with no local journalist and sometimes those newsrooms are shut down as what happened in southern Illinois not that long ago,” Stadelmand said Wednesday.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, argued the bill has nothing to do with hedge funds and could actually backfire, crippling local media.

A local media owner “has to go out and disclose to the world four months in advance that he’s thinking about selling it. He has to open up his employees and his advertisers to being poached, and it destroys the value of his business,” Plummer said.

Plummer said Stadelman’s bill doesn’t say anything about hedge funds. Instead, he said, it could cause a media outlet to be devalued.

“For that four months, when employees leave and advertisers leave … the value of that property will go down. The value of that business will go down. So our local media will be sold to hedge funds at a cheaper price because of this piece of legislation.”

The measure, which also creates a journalism scholarship program through the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, can now be sent to the Illinois House.

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