Senators Make Bipartisan Push for Local News Media Support

April 20, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan quartet of Senators is urging the chamber’s leadership to support aid to local newspaper, radio and television stations in the next iteration of the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Saturday, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., John Kennedy, R-La., and John Boozman, R-Ark., wrote, “ensuring that local news outlets remain viable at this critical time is not only a matter of fairness, but is essential to public health.

“Local newspapers, radio, and television stations provide important local content that keeps their communities informed,” they continued. “People rely on local newspapers and broadcasters to cover school and business closures, to widely communicate public health guidance, and to combat life-threatening misinformation.”

After Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, several thousand newspapers and hundreds of local radio and television stations discovered they were ineligible for relief due to the Small Business Administration’s affiliation rule.

The affiliation rule restricts assistance to companies owned or controlled by larger entities, even if they operate independently.

The Senators noted the CARES Act waived the affiliation rule for hotels and restaurants allowing them to benefit from small business assistance, and said the same consideration should extend to local news outlets in light of their vital role in maintaining public health.

They also point out that these local media outlets have all lost a significant amount of advertising revenue because of COVID-19’s impact on the American economy.

According to the News Media Alliance, newspapers have lost up to 50 percent of advertising revenue for the second quarter of the year.

In addition a nationwide survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, found that traditional media, including local radio and television stations, will see a 43 percent decline in advertising revenue for March and April.

In a separate analysis, the National Association of Broadcasters has found that some local broadcasters have even reported that up to 90 percent of their advertising revenue has been lost.

“Waiving SBA’s affiliation rules for local newspapers and broadcasters and ensuring that financial assistance flows to the local affiliate, not the parent company, would allow these small, local operations to be eligible for much-needed financial relief,” the Senators wrote.

A similar push is being led in the House by House Antitrust Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

In a statement David Chavem, president and CEO of the News Media Alliance said, “During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, reliable local news and information is more important than ever.

“SBA loans have allowed some local news publishers to keep reporters employed and their newsrooms running as an essential function. But too many publishers have been left out because they are part of groups with other small publishers or non-news businesses,” he continued.

“We are requesting changes to the SBA loan program that would allow funds to flow to more local newsrooms, and help them to continue doing the work that sustains communities during a time of crisis. We applaud Senators Cantwell, Kennedy, Klobuchar and Boozman for their leadership in pushing for this measure and we call on Congress to expand the SBA program to cover local news outlets,” Chavem said.

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