In early spring, as our country began grappling with the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating effects on our everyday lives, America’s broadcasters did what they always do during a crisis – they went to work to keep their audiences safe, informed and comforted.
Local TV and radio stations have expanded their newscasts to cover the latest developments, and their websites are featuring live-streamed reporting and special reports about the pandemic. Broadcasters have hosted virtual town halls with public safety officials and local leaders to discuss coronavirus’s impact on their local communities. Journalists who have caught the virus are documenting its impact on their bodies on social media to give followers a better idea of its dangerous potential. Since March, local TV and radio stations have aired over $150 million worth of public service announcements about stemming the spread of the virus and the importance of mental health wellness during these difficult times.
Broadcasters have also stepped up to help Main Street businesses and working families that are struggling during these times. They have held food drives to replenish depleted food banks, aired concerts to raise funds in the fight against the coronavirus, promoted businesses open for takeout or delivery options and fundraised to help laid-off or furloughed workers. Local TV stations have partnered with public school districts to air lessons from teachers, a vitally important resource for students who lack a broadband connection or even a computer. Radio stations have aired previously recorded musical performances and broadcast virtual field trips to help parents with kids at home.
At the same time that broadcasters are providing invaluable services to their local communities, local radio and TV stations have seen a historic, precipitous drop in the advertising revenue that sustains their operations. Yet, legislation in Washington could help broadcasters weather this storm.
As Congress considers legislation to extend relief for American businesses devastated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Local News and Emergency Information Act would go a long way in helping many broadcasters stay afloat and continue to provide viewers and listeners with lifesaving local news and information when they need it most.
The Local News and Emergency Information Act, which would expand eligibility for forgivable Payroll Protection Program loans for media outlets by basing eligibility on a local, per station or newsroom basis, enjoys broad-based, bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Understanding how critical local broadcasters are to the communities they serve, organizations representing a variety of constituencies have also voiced their support for this legislation.
Groups including the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, AFL-CIO, FreedomWorks, National Hispanic Media Coalition, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Rural Agricultural Council of America, the National Urban League, National Association of Farm Broadcasting, NewsGuild-CWA and Native Public Media have acknowledged the important role local media play in providing communities with news and emergency information. They are urging Congress to include broadcasters in the next coronavirus relief package in statements and op-eds such as these:
“While the Senate negotiates another federal recovery package in the coming weeks, it is crucial that local newsrooms are supported in that effort.
“Local newsrooms serve as watchdogs for our governments and platforms for civic engagement and discourse for voters. We hope leaders in the Senate will take action to keep communities informed and connected.”
“These stations provided constant coverage and emergency updates over the past few months and it is now time for us to help provide the same support they did for us.
“Our elected officials must prioritize local advertising dollars be spent in local media. The next stimulus package should include this direction. Doing so would provide a workable and long-term solution for our local broadcasters in meeting their bottom line.”
— RACA President and Chairman Jack Alexander
“Local TV and radio stations play an important role in providing communities with news and emergency information. It is crucial that Congress include broadcasters in the next coronavirus relief package. NPM stands in solidarity with local broadcasters.”
— Native Public Media
Broadcasters look forward to working with Congress to ensure that this legislative language is included in coronavirus economic relief efforts to help preserve local media and local journalism.