New COVID-19 Stimulus Package Expands Broadcaster Support

U.S. Capitol
(Image credit: Future)

WASHINGTON—Congress has passed a new stimulus package, which as part of the $900 billion spending package to support individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic includes expanding support for broadcasters and other media outlets.

Local television and radio stations, as well as local newspapers, are receiving expanded eligibility for U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

As part of the new legislation, individual TV and radio stations can apply for PPP loans as long as the individual station employs no more than 500 employees per physical location; this includes individual stations that are owned by station groups, something that had been a sticking point previously when determining small business loan access. SBA has the ability to make loans up to $10 million total across TV and radio stations owned by one of these larger station groups. Also, Congress has waived any prohibition on loans to broadcast stations owned by publicly traded entities.

One condition included in these new provisions is that newly eligible individual stations are required to make a good faith certification that proceeds of the loan will be used to support expenses for the production or distribution of locally-focused or emergency information.

A second round of PPP eligibility has also been created for small businesses that demonstrate significant need, which can include broadcasters. This second round applies to businesses with 300 or fewer employees that have sustained a 25% revenue loss in any quarter of 2020. Any loan in this round is capped at $2 million. Broadcasters who received PPP loans earlier this year can still qualify for this new round, as well as any broadcaster who is newly eligible for first round PPP loans.

“NAB applauds the inclusion of provisions in COVID-19 relief legislation that would expand eligibility to Paycheck Protection Program loans for local media outlets, including those radio and television stations which were previously excluded,” said Gordon Smith, NAB president and CEO. “These provisions, in addition to the bill’s second round of PPP funding for which many stations will also be eligible, help local broadcasters maintain their operations during this difficult time and continue to provide news and information critical to local communities as vaccine distribution commences across the country.”

The bill is also slated to provide $7 billion for expanded broadband access for students, families and unemployed workers. In addition, the omnibus spending bill includes a bill that makes the pirating of streamed content a felony.