The National Association of Broadcasters is the voice for the nation's local radio and television stations and their network partners. NAB advances the interests of our members through advocacy, education and innovation.
Together as a nation, we continue to face the challenges of a pandemic, civil protests over racial inequality and social justice, and natural disasters. Local radio and television stations, like so many businesses in our nation, have struggled to survive the financial impacts of COVID-19. Despite this, America's broadcasters have not relented in the face of danger; they are dedicated journalists who risk their lives to cover the monumental stories that impact our nation. They are raising awareness of important health and social issues, such as vaccine education, to keep their listeners and viewers safe and informed. They are providing important news to their communities, along with direct lines to their representatives in Congress. And, they are a pillar of American democracy, a free and open press whose resolve to bring truth to light cannot be broken.
The National Association of Broadcasters is proud to advocate on behalf of America’s local radio and TV stations and broadcast networks in our nation’s capital, ensuring their ability to innovate and serve their communities anytime and anywhere they are needed.
We are pleased to share this overview of broadcasters’ vital role in every town and city across the country and our policy priorities in the 117th Congress that could impact the future of local stations.
Gordon H. Smith
NAB President and CEO
When America needs trusted and reliable information on the COVID-19 pandemic and their communities, broadcasters are there. Local radio and television broadcast stations and their network partners will continue to inform local communities about prevention and treatment, social distancing and flattening the curve. As vaccine distribution and the nation’s recovery begins, local broadcasters are playing an important role in educating and engaging viewers and listeners.
Despite facing significant advertising revenue losses, broadcasters are delivering unparalleled and uniquely local news coverage that keeps audiences apprised of critical and timely information in their communities. Broadcasters and other local and ethnic media are also best positioned to serve communities of color, multilingual ethnic minorities and other vulnerable populations with COVID-19 news that is trusted, factual and culturally relevant. Additionally, broadcasters donated more than hundreds of millions of dollars in free airtime to public service announcements aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Broadcasters look forward to being a partner and resource to the administration and Congress on keeping Americans safe and informed during this challenging time.
As first informers, local broadcasters take seriously their commitment to bring critical updates to their listeners and viewers, even risking their own lives in dangerous conditions to provide a lifeline during times of crisis.
Because of the strength of the broadcast infrastructure and the power of the airwaves, local radio and TV stations are often the only available communications medium during disasters, when cell phone and wireless networks can be unreliable.
Whether it’s an impending storm or a spreading wildfire, local radio and television stations are always there for their communities to provide breaking news alerts, round-the-clock reporting and online and social messages to keep their communities out of harm’s way.
Every day, radio and television broadcasters exercise their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and of the press to deliver essential, fact-based news and investigative reports to keep their communities safe, informed and connected.
As the most trusted source of news, our nation’s local broadcasters take seriously their role of bastions of the First Amendment, shining a light on injustice and reporting the facts without fear or favor. The pandemic has reminded us how essential a free press is for keeping all Americans informed and connected during our most troubling days.
Local stations’ award-winning investigative news units uncover government corruption, question those in power and expose those who abuse their positions. This valuable investigative work improves the quality of lives within communities and provides viewers and listeners with the facts they need to be informed citizens.
From food collections, pandemic relief and voter education efforts to sharing vaccine information and hosting fundraisers and telethons, broadcasters’ tremendous dedication to helping our communities sets them apart from other mediums. Each day, thousands of broadcasters support charities and victims of disasters, create awareness about important health and safety issues and help rescue abducted children with AMBER Alerts. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, listeners and viewers turned to their local stations not only for news but also for the human connection and reassuring voice that broadcasters provide.
Broadcasters generate more than $10 billion in community service in a single year -- an astounding number that reflects the work of thousands of local stations that strive every day to help their communities in unparalleled ways.
Broadcasters are investing in and rolling out new technologies that expand the delivery of their highly-valued content to listeners and viewers across emerging platforms. Through the use of an antenna, viewers have more choices than ever on broadcast radio and television – for free.
Local TV stations are excited about Next Gen TV, technology that allows stations to better personalize their broadcasts with information and interactive features so local viewers can get the content and features most relevant to them. For broadcasters, this means a more compelling and interactive way to tell our stories, whether it is breaking news, live sports or popular dramas or reality shows. This broadcast technology can also enable warnings about impending storms and alerting local residents to other emergencies, with targeted public announcements that are interactive and mobile. Learn more about Next Gen TV and whether stations are on the air in your community at WatchNextGenTV.com.
Many local radio stations are available online, through apps, on smart speakers, allowing listeners to access their favorite hometown station from anywhere.
Broadcasters are actively working with automakers and internet service providers around the globe to develop the next generation of radio that combines broadcasting with internet connectivity to create new and engaging user experiences.
To learn more about broadcasters' innovation initiatives, visit nabpilot.org.
NAB advocates on the issues that impact the ability of local TV and radio stations and their network partners to serve their communities – your constituents. To learn more about the policies that broadcasters will focus on in the 117th Congress, visit nab.org/advocacy.
Journalism and a free press are bedrocks of American democracy and for over a century, broadcasters have served those values and the public interest in unique and beneficial ways. Yet, even as free, accessible and reliable content remains in high demand, it is being undermined on multiple fronts.
The revolution in digital technologies and the exponential growth of the internet have fundamentally altered the media and advertising landscape, and local broadcast stations must be available on all platforms and every device to remain relevant to audiences and advertisers in the digital age. Broadcasting still remains free to the public because it relies almost exclusively on advertising revenue to support its operations.
Yet, as the advertising market has become dominated by a few giant online platforms, broadcast stations’ advertising revenues have significantly declined, making local journalism more difficult to support. In addition, the dominance and behavior of these platforms in the advertising marketplace have resulted in the diversion of advertising revenue away from local broadcast stations and the solidification of big tech platforms as advertising gatekeepers that do not serve the public. Local journalism is now at risk due to this unchecked competitive position held by a handful of dominant digital players.
As Congress considers the competitive challenges and antitrust concerns raised by digital platforms and their impact on local news and information, it should support laws and policies that recognize and uphold broadcasters’ unique and essential role in democracy and a free press.
Broadcasters are committed to improving diversity in the industry and creating new opportunities for women, people of color and other underrepresented communities. Since 2000, the NAB Leadership Foundation’s cornerstone initiative has been the Broadcast Leadership Training program, which has a strong track record of preparing women and people of color to purchase and run radio and television stations. However, despite broadcasters’ support for programs such as this, access to capital remains one of the primary barriers to media ownership. Unfortunately, the most impactful program to expand diversity in broadcast ownership – the Minority Tax Certificate Program – was eliminated by Congress in 1995. That program had provided tax incentives to those who sold their majority interests in broadcast stations to minorities, and broadcasters support legislation to reinstate it. In the 116th Congress, broadcasters supported the Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act of 2019 (H.R. 3957 and S. 2433) to encourage broadcast station ownership for women and people of color.
Congress should reinstate the diversity tax certificate to help ensure station owners are as diverse as the communities they serve.
Under the U.S. tax code, advertising is treated as an ordinary and necessary business expense deductible in the year it is incurred. In the last few years, some in Congress and in state legislatures have proposed changes to the tax treatment of businesses’ advertising as a means of raising revenue. These modifications would have a devastating impact on radio and television stations, as well as local newspapers, by discouraging businesses from advertising. Local media rely on ad revenue to serve their communities with essential news, emergency information, sports and entertainment programming. The proposed changes also raise significant First Amendment concerns and ignore the important consumer benefits that advertising provides.
Congress has repeatedly rejected the record labels’ attempts to impose a harmful performance tax on local radio stations. A performance tax would financially cripple local radio stations simply for airing music, jeopardizing local jobs, stifling new artists and harming local radio listeners. Broadcasters strongly support the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes a performance tax and has strong bipartisan support in Congress. In the 116th Congress, 250 legislators, including a bipartisan majority of the House, supported the resolution.
Strong congressional support for local radio was also made clear in the 2018 enactment of the Music Modernization Act, legislation that did not contain a performance tax and benefited songwriters, legacy recording artists, producers, digital streaming services and music listeners. It was the culmination of a years-long process to find consensus solutions to music licensing issues. Nevertheless, despite no discernable changes in the marketplace, the Department of Justice (DOJ) again initiated a review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees and has signaled a strong interest in terminating them. Broadcasters and others opposed that move and applauded the DOJ closing its review without modifications or termination.
Congress should stand up for local radio station listeners by opposing a performance tax. Congress should also continue to ensure that the DOJ does not unilaterally terminate, sunset or modify the consent decrees, which would upset the balance Congress strived to achieve in the 2018 Music Modernization Act.
TV and radio stations are best able to serve their local communities when allowed to compete effectively in the marketplace. Congress recognized this in the 1996 Telecommunications Act by requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) to review its broadcast ownership rules every four years and to repeal or modify those rules no longer necessary. In 2017, broadcasters applauded the FCC’s long-overdue decision to modernize several of its local broadcast ownership rules. The Commission rightly recognized that with an explosion of new media sources, such as online video and audio services, social media, blogs and websites, rules from the last century were no longer needed to ensure competition or diverse points of view. Unfortunately, however, a federal appeals court, by a 2-1 vote in 2019, failed to properly account for dramatic changes in marketplace competition and vacated the FCC’s commonsense updates. As a result, broadcasters again are subject to analog-era rules that the FCC had found were no longer in the public interest. In October 2020, the Supreme Court granted a request by NAB and the FCC to review the lower court’s ruling blocking changes to antiquated broadcast ownership regulations.
Broadcasters urge policymakers to support the FCC's modernization of radio and TV ownership rules to reflect the current marketplace and account for the rise and increasing influence of digital media.
Congress has long recognized that local TV stations should be allowed to negotiate compensation with pay-TV operators for the retransmission of their signals in a process known as retransmission consent. Cable and satellite companies then resell broadcast signals to subscribers, amounting to billions of dollars in profits. Local stations and cable and satellite providers hold private, market-based negotiations that provide incentives for both parties to come to mutually beneficial arrangements. This is why negotiations are completed with no service disruptions the great majority of the time. This fair and market-driven process has resulted in abundant locally-focused programming choices and services that benefit communities across America. In spite of this, some pay-TV companies are aggressively lobbying the government to upend this free-market process to pad their profit margins. Eliminating stations’ ability to negotiate for the value of their signals would mean less choice for viewers and fewer resources for stations to dedicate to local news, public affairs programming, coverage of emergency weather events and community activities.
Congress should ensure broadcasters and pay-TV operators can continue conducting private, market-driven negotiations and avoid tilting the scales in favor of either party.
TV and radio broadcasters use spectrum in the C-band and the 6 GHz band every day to transmit and receive critical, live content for their broadcasts. In addition to broadcasters, pay-TV providers rely on C-band spectrum to deliver national and syndicated programming. The 6 GHz band is utilized by broadcasters for critical electronic newsgathering systems, such as delivering breaking news and emergency information. The FCC has adopted changes to the use of these spectrum bands to allow for new services, which could impact the news, information and entertainment listeners and viewers rely on. The FCC is considering additional changes for the 6 GHz band, which could undermine the use of the band for newsgathering.
Tech companies also continue to lobby the FCC for expanded access to TV airwaves to operate unlicensed devices which can interfere with TV station reception. Some claim this will unlock broadband for rural America, but those promises have largely remained unfulfilled and further rule changes to benefit speculative services risk leaving viewers in the dark.
Congress should ensure that any changes to C-band and 6 GHz spectrum do not impede broadcasters’ ability to deliver critical programming and services to their communities. Additionally, policymakers should reject unlicensed spectrum giveaways to ensure your constituents have access to the critical news and emergency information local TV stations provide.
In the 117th Congress, broadcasters look forward to working with legislators on policies that allow local stations to thrive and compete in an evolving media landscape. For more information on the issues affecting local radio and television stations, please contact the National Association of Broadcasters’ advocacy team.