Local Media Outlets Seek Billions in COVID-19 Ad Spend Aid

The National Association of Broadcasters has joined with newspaper associations to try and get billions for news media outlet advertising in the next COVID-19 aid bill, the Paycheck Protection Program currently being hammered out in Congress. 

Media outlets have already teamed with the government on messaging, donating millions of dollars in ad time to COVID-19 public service announcements. But they would also like to get their own COVID-19 aid for ailing ad budgets through paid spots. 

NAB joined with the News Media Alliance, the National Newspaper Association, and America's Newspapers to ask that the bill fund ad-supported media by directing U.S. government ad campaigns to local media provide $5 billion-$10 billion in direct funding for local media advertising. 

They argue that while people are "rushing" to local news outlets, most of the value has gone to the "dominant tech platforms." 

"We urgently request that policymakers support our effort to preserve advertising-supported local media outlets that are so important to the fabric of daily life," said NAB president Gordon Smith.  

Related: Broadcasters Provide Unprecedented Backing for COVID-19 PSAs

Broadcasters have been arguing that each station in a broadcast group should count separately in terms of qualifying for some of the billions already allocated for small business aid in the CARES Act COVID-19 aid bill. 

All the associations in the joint request share that view.  

"Many local media and news organizations (those with a majority of their audience within a single community or metropolitan area) exist within larger business groups," they said in a summary of their position. "Regardless of their ownership, they all provide critical information to local communities and have been similarly harmed by the COVID-19 crisis."

They said eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program "must be determined at a local level (based on the local newspaper publisher or station) using a similar framework applied to restaurants and hotels." 

Related: FCC Waivers Disclosure Rules for COVID-19 PSAs

Second, they want the government to spend its ad budget on local newspapers and broadcast stations, including for national campaigns. "Whether it is a  singular unified national message or a locally-focused call to action, Congress can ensure that the people have the information they need most by directing current U.S. government advertising campaigns (such as those promoting the Census) to local news and media outlets," they said, "and providing the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration and other relevant agencies with an additional $5 billion to $10 billion for direct funding for local media advertising" for things like "status of testing sites, data from the Center for Disease Control, mental health awareness, access to small business loans and other critical governmental information." 

They said that money should be spread "equitably" across outlets in markets of all sizes.  

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.