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NAB Urges Support for Legislation to Sustain Local News Outlets

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WASHINGTON—The NAB this week urged Congress to support legislation that would provide financial support for local news outlets and advertisers to help preserve local journalism.

Citing the 18+-month long pandemic and the resulting decline in advertising revenues from local businesses who had to shut down due or are just barely hanging on; to the increased costs of covering civil rights protests, the controversies surrounding the 2020 election and natural disasters, NAB said in a blog post this week that “the recent frequency of breaking news events has further strained broadcasters’ budgets."

NAB said that an average of one quarter of a TV station’s total operational expenses are taken up by local news coverage (and even more in larger markets).

“In addition to their day-to-day expenses, broadcasters are making long-term investments in newsgathering, such as buying news trucks and helicopters, weather-forecasting technology, and cutting-edge equipment to help them report from the front lines,” NAB said.

The association also cited unfair competition from Silicon Valley. 

“Broadcasters have been forced onto unequal footing in the competition for local advertising with digital giants—whose size and scale easily dwarf the entire broadcast industry,” they said. “These tech giants not only yield an unfair competitive advantage in the competition for local advertising, but their control over digital platforms limits radio and TV broadcasters’ ability to monetize content online.”

In response to this, legislation was recently introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell, Mark Kelly and Ron Wyden and cosponsored by Sens. Brian Schatz, Edward Markey, Edward, Patty Murray and Amy Klobuchar that would support local news by helping radio and television stations invest in journalism and journalists.

“The Local Journalism Sustainability Act would provide tax credits for local media outlets such as television and radio stations that hire local journalists for broadcast newsrooms,” the NAB said. “This would enable news outlets to produce more local journalism that keeps our communities informed, holds decision-makers to account and helps combat misinformation and disinformation that plague digital platforms.”

Numerous organizations including the News Media Alliance, America’s Newspapers and the National Newspaper Association—along with newsgatherers at SAG-AFTRA, AFL-CIO, Writers Guild of America—East, The News Guild-CWA and Report for America, as well as the Native American Journalists Association, The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, Native Public Media and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. State broadcast associations representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have all voiced support for the legislation.

The bill would also provide tax credits to small businesses that advertise with local media outlets, including broadcast stations. 

“Radio and television broadcasters strongly support the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which would enable hiring of reporters and newsgatherers, help generate more trustworthy and critical local news, and spur our communities’ recovery from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are encouraged that Congress has included a portion of this bipartisan legislation in the budget reconciliation proposal. We urge policymakers to ensure that broadcast journalists are included in the final bill.”

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Technology (www.tvtechnology.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.