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Radio Legislative and Regulatory Issues

Prevent Harmful Changes to Advertising Tax Treatment

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.

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A Performance Tax Threatens Local Jobs

Congress should not mandate a performance tax on free, local radio stations that would jeopardize local jobs, prevent new artists from breaking into the recording business and harm the hundreds of millions of Americans who rely on local radio. Broadcasters urge legislators to support the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes a performance tax, and that last Congress was supported by more than 250 bipartisan members of the House and Senate. Additionally, broadcasters ask legislators to oppose any performance tax proposal.

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Encourage Diversity in Broadcasting: Reinstate the Tax Certificate Program

In 1978, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Minority Tax Certificate Program, which provided a tax incentive to those who sold their majority interest in a broadcast station to minorities. From 1978 to 1995, the program was highly effective in leveling the playing field for underrepresented broadcasters, increasing diverse ownership in broadcast stations by more than 550 percent. Unfortunately, Congress repealed this program in 1995. Broadcasters opposed this repeal because of the program's dramatic and positive impact on increasing ownership of broadcast stations for people of color. The tax certificate has proven to be an effective mechanism for bringing more people of color into station ownership and should be reinstated.

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Support Passage of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act

Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, recently introduced the Local Journalism Sustainability Act (S. 2434), along with Sen. Ron Wyden (OR), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Mark Kelly (AZ). This legislation would establish tax incentives that would provide much-needed relief for local newsrooms. Specifically, this legislation would create a targeted tax credit for the hiring and retention of local journalists, as well as a tax credit for businesses to advertise with local broadcast radio and TV stations and newspapers.

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Retain the Public's Access to Programming Delivered Through Unique Spectrum Bands

In addition to their primary spectrum assignments for over-the-air transmissions, TV and radio broadcasters use additional spectrum in both the C-band and the 6 GHz band every day to transmit and receive critical, live content for their broadcasts. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering changes to the use of these spectrum bands to allow for new services, which could impact the programming listeners and viewers rely upon.

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Expand Access to Emergency Information: Unlock FM

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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Ensure that Media Ownership Rules Reflect the Competitive Marketplace

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.

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Music Licensing Consent Decrees Prevent Marketplace Chaos

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).

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