During the past two Congresses, some members of Congress, at the behest of the big record labels, introduced a bill to impose a performance tax on local radio broadcasters. The Performance Rights Act would have imposed a devastating new fee on local stations simply for airing music on the radio - airing the music that provides free promotion to the labels and artists. A new performance fee could financially cripple local radio stations putting jobs at risk, stifle new artists trying to break into the recording business and harm the listening public who rely on local radio.
Legislation recently passed by the House, and actively being considered by the Senate, would establish tax incentives that would provide much-needed relief for local newsrooms. Specifically, this legislation would create a targeted tax credit for television and radio broadcasters, as well as certain print and digital publications, for the hiring and retention of up to 1,500 full-time local news journalists each year over five years. This tax credit was derived from a bill, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (S. 2434), that was introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Mark Kelly (AZ).
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has consistently promoted initiatives aimed at improving diversity in broadcasting and creating new opportunities for women, people of color and other underrepresented communities. But the most impactful program to expand diversity in broadcast ownership - the Minority Tax Certificate Program - was eliminated by Congress in 1995. Broadcasters support legislation to reinstate this successful program and to eliminate barriers that prevent ownership of local TV and radio stations by underrepresented individuals such as women and people of color.
The overwhelming power of big tech gatekeepers is threatening Americans' access to quality local journalism. The size of the platforms, such as Google and Facebook, dwarf local TV and radio stations. Not only do these tech giants pose major threats to advertising revenue, but they are gatekeepers of online content, exerting power over what internet users access and how advertisers reach them. When big tech wins, local communities lose.
Congress should not pass legislation that hurts free, local broadcasting by modifying the tax laws to make advertising more expensive for businesses. Advertising is currently treated as an ordinary and necessary business expense - just like salaries, rent and utilities - under the U.S. tax code. This means a business can fully deduct the expense in the year it was incurred. Some in Congress have suggested changing the tax treatment of advertising for specific types of products, such as pharmaceuticals. This change would have a devastating impact on listeners and viewers of local radio and television stations that rely on advertising revenue to survive, raises significant First Amendment concerns and ignores the important consumer benefits that advertising provides.
Microsoft is lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for free spectrum - or airwaves - to operate unlicensed devices. Microsoft claims this would unlock broadband for rural America, but fails to mention it will do so at the expense of rural Americans' lifeline local TV service.
The C-band is a strip of satellite spectrum that radio and TV stations use every day to receive critical content for their broadcasts. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering transferring some or all of that spectrum to wireless companies for new services, which could impact the programming listeners and viewers rely upon.
In a response to growing complaints about poor cable service and high rates, Congress passed the 1992 Cable Act, which intended to curb cable rates that were excessively increasing and far outpacing inflation. The Act also included the right for local television broadcasters to negotiate with cable in a free market for use of their signals (known as retransmission consent).
The internet has transformed the media marketplace, yet TV and radio broadcasters are still subject to outdated rules restricting the number and type of outlets they may own. Policymakers should support the continued modernization of these rules to account for the rise, and increasing influence, of digital media.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently completed a review of the critically important antitrust consent decrees that underpin the music licensing marketplace. The DOJ decided to leave the decrees intact, without modifications. Television and radio broadcasters applaud this action, as modification or termination of the decrees would upset the balance Congress strived to achieve in the 2018 Music Modernization Act (MMA).
The next generation of broadcast television technology will deliver life-saving advanced emergency alerting, stunning pictures, immersive, customizable audio and improved reception - all for free - to enhance and expand your broadcast viewing experience. Because the new technology combines the best of broadcast television and broadband, Next Gen TV allows local stations to better personalize their broadcasts with information and interactive features to give viewers the content that is most relevant to them.
For decades, the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division has maintained that local broadcast television stations compete only against other broadcast television stations when analyzing mergers and other competition issues relating to the industry. This view no longer matches today's media marketplace.
Virtually all smartphones are manufactured with hardware capable of receiving free FM radio signals, but not all phones have this feature activated, either by choice of the phone’s manufacturer or the wireless carrier. However, Apple has not activated this feature on any of its iPhones, preventing their customers from saving battery life and data charges, while also blocking access to a critical lifeline during times of emergency.
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