In a wholly unified effort, broadcaster associations from all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, have sent a letter to House and Senate Leaders that urge them to provide relief for local media in any upcoming bills or legislative measures addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically sending the letter to House Majority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the letter echoes the efforts and needs local broadcasters have been dealing with since the start of the pandemic.
“[L]ocal media outlets have been providing critical and essential service to their communities—working around the clock to ensure that their viewers, readers and listeners remain informed, connected and safe,” the letter reads. “Unlike other businesses, who have had the option of temporarily closing their doors, local broadcasters and news publishers have maintained their operations, which have become more important than ever to their communities.”
The continued operation comes even as the stations have been hit hard in revenue because of the loss of advertising. The letter details that some local broadcasters have seen advertising decline more than 50% compared to 2019, while others are reporting as much as 90% of their advertising buys have been cancelled. This could lead to revenue losses of more than $14 billion, the associations claims.
As a result, the state associations are calling for two measures to be enacted by Congress:
The first is to ensure that local media can seek relief under the Paycheck Protection Program. Many media outlets have already been helped by PPP, but the associations hope that Congress will allow them to apply for additional funds under their existing PPP loans. Some, however, have not been able to apply for PPP loans because of their place as part of a larger business or ownership group — a point of contention among different groups. These associations are asking that Congress adopt the provisions contained in the Local News and Emergency Act in the House-passed HEROES Act, which would ensure PPP eligibility is determined on a local, per station or newsroom basis.
Second, they want federal funds to support advertising. They ask that Congress include provisions in upcoming appropriations measures and COVID relief legislation that would direct U.S. government advertising campaigns to fund and prioritize local media for the promotion of important federal priorities; an action that had large bipartisan support earlier this year. In addition, the associations want any relief legislation for local communities should include provisions that would prioritize and incentivize stimulus recipients to spend a portion of those funds on promotion through advertising on local media.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this week that it was planning to spend advertising dollars on local media.
“We urge Congress to act swiftly to ensure that local radio and television broadcasters and local newspapers can continue to serve their vital roles in informing Americans and keeping them safe,” the letter concludes.
The full letter is available online.