HEROES Act Extends SBA Aid to Broadcasters

The Democrats' draft HEROES Act legislation, their latest stab at a follow-on COVID-19 aid bill introduced Tuesday (May 12), which includes a big ask from broadcasters and the news media, though the bill's fate is much in doubt.

The bill allows small business loans to go to TV stations that are part of larger groups, which would ordinarily disqualify them, so long as the money only goes to support that local station and is not passed up to the group owner to use for anything else.

According to the National Association of Broadcasters, the bill will:

"[P]rovide television and radio broadcasters, as well as newspapers, the same treatment as hotels and restaurants received under the original CARES Act PPP (Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program]– eligibility based on a physical location basis;

"[R]equire a local station to fit within the SBA size standard for the broadcasting industry, or under $41.5 million in revenue annually;

"[E]nsure that expanded PPP funds would remain at the local level through additional oversight."

“NAB thanks Speaker Pelosi and Chairwoman Velázquez for their inclusion of expanded access to Payroll Protection Program loans for local radio and television stations in today’s draft Coronavirus economic relief legislation..." said NAB President Gordon Smith," who thanked the legislators who had supported the provision. "Hometown broadcasters and community newspapers are providing vital news and information during these unprecedented times to keep families and communities safe, while struggling with record advertising revenue losses," he said.

There were no Republicans on the bill, and one of broadcasters' biggest backers in the House, a former broadcaster himself, signaled the larger legislative vehicle for the broadcast-friendly provision was dead on arrival.

“Don’t be fooled by the name of this massive package. Heroes are not partisans, but this legislation is," said House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.). "Written behind closed doors in the Speaker’s Office, House Democrats confess this legislation has no chance of becoming law, yet they wasted time writing an 1,815 page spending manifesto rather than working with us to craft real solutions. We’ve all been inspired by Americans from every walk of life stepping up and working together to get through this terrible time. Congress should do the same."

Democrats control the House, but if Senate Republicans share Walden's view, as is likely, it would likely be DOA there.

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.