ATVA: Broadcast COVID-19 Bucks Should Come with Blackout Prohibition

The American Television Alliance said that if "big" broadcasters do manage to secure COVID-19-related small business aid, a three-year moratorium on retrans blackouts should be part of the bargain.

TV stations and newspapers had wanted to get federal ad dollars and to qualify individually for small business aid even if they were part of a larger broadcast or newspaper company. Those did not make it into the compromise COVID-19 aid bill passed by the Senate Tuesday (April 21), but the National Association of Broadcasters said it would try again in the next aid bill.

But ATVA, which battles with broadcasters over retrans fee and carriage issues and didn't want them to get the funding, says if they do wind up getting it--there is some solid Hill support for that aid--it should come with the retrans string attached.

Related: Local Media Outlets Seek COVID-19 Aid

“ATVA has been clear on our position – we do not believe that large broadcast conglomerates should be eligible for funding meant for small businesses in need of relief,” said ATVA spokesperson Jessica Kendust. “However, if Congress decides to allocate these critical tax dollars to major broadcasting groups, it should require that they not only provide their signals to all consumers, but also refrain from blacking out their signals to customers of any cable, telco, or satellite provider for three years.”

While broadcasters want each TV and radio station to count as an individual small business, ATVA argues they controlled by the parent company, including personnel, programming and finances, as retransmission consent negotiations. " when ATVA members negotiate to carry a station owned by Nexstar, we speak with Nexstar headquarters—never with the individual station general manager," ATVA points out.

ATVA members include ACA Connects, AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, USTelecom and Dish.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.