Trade groups representing local newspapers and broadcasters are seeking provisions in the next coronavirus relief legislation that would provide a lifeline to struggling outlets amid a drop in advertising revenue.
The groups — including the News Media Alliance, National Association of Broadcasters, the National Newspaper Association and America’s Newspapers — want stations and newspapers to be eligible for the $349 billion paycheck protection program, which provides loans to small businesses that can be converted into grants if recipients maintain payrolls and other factors.
The problem that local stations and newspapers have is that they are part of much larger media entities that would not fall under the definition of a small business. But the media groups say that they would like to see a provision in the next relief package that is similar to what was specifically given to hotels and restaurants in the most recent relief bill. That special provision makes large chains eligible for the relief program if they have fewer than 500 employees per physical location of their business.
The media groups also would like the federal government to direct some $5 billion to $10 billion in their advertising campaigns to local media.
“These ads could carry information on medical resources, status of testing sites, data from the Center for Disease Control, mental health awareness, access to small business loans and other critical governmental information,” the groups said.
In a statement, David Chavern, the president and CEO of the News Media Alliance, said that local news has been a reliable source of information that “is absolutely critical to communities, particularly during events like the COVID-19 crisis.”
“However, the rapidly contracting ad market in response to the pandemic is dealing a sharp and immediate blow to local news publishing,” he said. “If this continues, there won’t be local journalism in many communities.”
Already many local publishers have instituted layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts during the pandemic, and projections are that advertising will fall by 25% to 50%. Local TV stations also have suffered the loss of revenue as social distancing guidelines have forced closures of advertisers like local car dealers and theaters.
Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “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.”