The National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association may be on opposite sides of the retrans issue, but they see eye-to-eye on perceived problems with the Senate version of the DISCLOSE Act.
The bill is an attempt to take some of the teeth out of the Supreme Court's decision to lift the ban on direct corporate and union funding of election ads.
The bill passed the House of Representatives last week without changes to broadcast and cable's lowest unit rate obligations. But those changes remain in the Senate version.
Among them would be to extend the requirement that broadcast and cable operators provide political airtime at the lowest rate (the lowest unit charge or LUC) to nonpreemptible spots, which usually go for a premium, and to extend the LUC to parties and PACS.
Like the provisions in both bills that require lengthy on-camera disclosures that could take up most of a 30-second spot and all of a 15 (think drug adds), the lowest unit rate changes in the bill could discourage advertising and lower media outlets' take from the upcoming midterm elections.
In their joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow and NAB Joint Board Chairman Steve Newberry said they are "greatly concerned" about expanding the lowest unit charge's scope. They are also concerned about what they call "burdensome and unworkable" reporting requirments in the bill, which would require random audits of broadcast and cable outlets.
"As the Senate moves to vote on the DISCLOSE Act, we ask that you follow your colleagues in the House of Representatives and remove provisions harmful to local businesses, as well as the broadcast and cable industries," they wrote.
The letter was signed by Newberry rather than NAB President Gordon Smith because ethics rules prevent the former senator from directly lobbying Congress for the next six months or so.
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