The House on Friday (Nov. 19) passed President Joe Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act, whose investments in “better” include more broadband-related subsidy funding, help for local journalism and bulking up the Federal Trade Commission with a new privacy-targeted arm.
The party-line House vote was 220 to 213, but the bill faces a tougher crowd in the 50-50 Senate, where Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Republican Conference, said it would meet “a buzzsaw of resistance.” Not mincing words, Barrasso said in a statement emailed to Next TV: “Senate Republicans are united in our efforts to plunge a stake through the heart of this Democrat disaster.”
Currently it is two moderate Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who probably hold the keys to its passage. The principal broadband funding boost came from the just-passed infrastructure bill and its $65 billion, but the Build Back Better Act does have another about $1 billion in additional broadband-related funding.
Connect Americans Now praised the inclusion of $475 million in funding for a broadband Connected Device Grant Program, another $300 million for the Emergency Connectivity Fund, $285 million for public-private partnerships to get broadband to historically underserved communities, and another $100 million to educate the public about the availability of various broadband subsidy programs.
The bill also incorporated the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, which provides tax credits for broadcast and online media outlets and newspapers to incentivize them to hire and keep journalists.
“The Local Journalism Sustainability Act will provide meaningful incentives for local broadcast stations to hire and retain the news-gatherers who keep our communities informed, connected and engaged,” said National Association of Broadcasters president and CEO Gordon Smith, who has pushed for the provision. “Local broadcast news is consistently ranked among the most trusted sources of news and information, and this bill would allow radio and television stations to employ additional journalists to report on the events, issues and emergencies affecting our nation.”
Michael Lee, executive director of the LPTV Broadcasters Association, was also pleased. “We have actively supported the Local Journalism Sustainability Act from the beginning and the principle of investing to maintain and develop trusted local community news coverage," he said. "The payroll tax credit should mean this is straightforward to implement, benefit from and track." He also praised FCC acting Chairwoman for this week coming out in support of the credit.
“We are pleased to see the House passage of the payroll tax credit for local journalists as part of the Build Back Better legislative package,” said Nadine Farid Johnson, Washington director of PEN America (https://pen.org/). “This provision will provide a crucial lifeline to local news outlets, bolstering the breadth and durability of community coverage and civic discourse. We urge the Senate to retain the payroll tax credit as it moves toward final consideration.”
Consumer Reports was praising the bill's $500 million over 10 years to fund an FTC office focused on policing privacy and data violations, as well giving the FTC civil penalty authority for the first time.
“We applaud the House of Representatives for taking action to empower the FTC to hold bad actors accountable,” CR senior policy analyst Maureen Maloney said. “We call on the Senate to approve the measure, so that the FTC can redouble its efforts to protect consumer privacy, advance civil rights, and address inappropriate uses of data.”
Not surprising in a bill this massive, not everything was to the media/tech industry's licensing.
“While the Build Back Better Act as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives supports companies' ability to keep their intellectual property in the U.S., invest in research and development, and accelerate semiconductor production, its international tax provisions would still hamper the overall competitiveness of globally-engaged U.S. employers," said Jason Oxman, president of tech association ITI. "Certain provisions would impose new worldwide interest limitations and discourage expansion, increase the base erosion and anti-abuse tax rate, and put the U.S. at a disadvantage by increasing its minimum rate before other countries adopt similar rules. As negotiations continue, it is imperative that lawmakers consider the essential role the U.S. international tax system plays in supporting the ability of the U.S. to compete on a global stage and promote innovation. We look forward to continuing to work with U.S. Congress on these provisions.”
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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.