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.
It is both an exciting and a challenging time for America's broadcasters. Like so many businesses in our nation, local radio and TV stations have faced enormous challenges posed by COVID-19 and threats to Americans' access to quality local journalism. Despite this, broadcasters have demonstrated incredible courage and resilience. Their dedicated journalists risk their lives to cover the monumental stories that impact our communities and nation. Broadcasters are raising awareness of important health and social issues, such as vaccine education, and providing a lifeline during emergencies to keep their listeners and viewers safe and informed. They are delivering the most trusted news to their communities. 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.
NAB President and CEO
When Americans need 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 are playing an important role in educating and engaging viewers and listeners about vaccines, prevention and treatment.
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 have 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 health and safety 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 unmatched 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 NEXTGEN 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 NEXTGEN 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.
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 (H. Con. Res. 33, S. Con. Res. 9), a resolution that opposes a performance tax and is supported by more than 230 bipartisan members of the House and Senate.
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. Broadcasters stand ready to work with Congress and the music industry on a balanced music licensing proposal that promotes innovation and recognizes the benefit to artists and listeners of radio's free, locally focused platform.
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.
Broadcasters support the Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act (H.R. 4871) and the Broadcast Varied Ownership Incentives for Community Expanded Service Act, also known as the Broadcast VOICES Act (S. 2456), introduced in the House and Senate respectively during the 117th Congress. Reinstating the Tax Certificate Program at the FCC would encourage investment in broadcast station ownership for women and people of color and dramatically help underrepresented voices realize their dreams of radio and television station ownership.
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.
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.
In response, NAB and the FCC both appealed the lower court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and mounted a successful legal strategy to reinstate the FCC's modernization of its broadcast ownership rules. In a major victory for broadcasters, the Supreme Court in April 2021 unanimously upheld the FCC's long-overdue updates to its rules against challenges from opponents of any modernization. Additionally, the FCC began its mandated 2018 quadrennial review of the ownership rules in December 2018, but as yet has reached no decision. Among other actions, broadcasters are urging the FCC to update its local radio ownership caps, which have not changed since 1996, prior to the advent of satellite radio, audio streaming services and smartphones.
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.
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.