On Wednesday, February 27th Trila Bumstead, Chairwomen of the OAB Board and Owner Operator of Ohana Media Group and Matt McCormick, OAB Board member and counsel from Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, joined OAB President & Executive Director John Tamerlano in Washington D.C. to meet with the Congressional delegates from Oregon.
Our meetings were with Sen. Jeff Merkley, Sen. Ron Wyden, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. Kurt Schrader, Rep. Greg Walden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
During our one on one visits to each of their offices, we reviewed selected key issues listed below and that without their support could have a negative impact to the broadcast industry and the communities it serves.
Narrow Satellite Legislation Should Expire as Congress Intended
This is the issue: The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) should be allowed to expire at the end of 2019 – the date that Congress intentionally chose for this temporary law to sunset. Not only have its provisions become unnecessary due to dramatic changes in the media marketplace, but its reauthorization will harm some viewers who are being denied access to their local television stations. Broadcasters oppose STELAR reauthorization. The law has worked, and the narrow provisions it contains are no longer necessary.
Background: Thirty years ago, nascent satellite television companies were temporarily given a significantly discounted copyright license that allowed them to better compete with big cable monopolies at a time when there were millions of Americans who could not receive their local broadcast stations over the air, from cable or from satellite. On a temporary basis, Congress allowed the satellite companies to serve those households with a broadcast station operating outside of the local community, typically from a major city, so viewers could receive their favorite network programming. But the market and media landscape have fundamentally changed over the past three decades. Those nascent satellite companies are now media behemoths: AT&T-DIRECTV is a $235 billion company, and DISH is a $17 billion company. Technology has eliminated the need to import out-of-market station signals to consumers, and satellites now deliver local TV stations to all 210 local media markets. In spite of these developments, this below-market subsidy still incentivizes satellite companies to deny some viewers local news, weather and life-saving emergency information and instead send them an out-of-market signal. Further, there are a dozen markets around the country where one satellite company is choosing to deny local viewers their local programming altogether. Viewers will benefit from eliminating this outdated law, ensuring they receive the local content most relevant to them.
The bottom line: Congress should allow STELAR to expire as it originally intended. There is no policy justification or technological reason for this outdated law to be reauthorized. The time has come to stop subsidizing billion-dollar satellite TV companies and to instead provide viewers with the lo
cal news, weather and emergency information they want and need.
Our ask…Will you oppose STELAR’s reauthorization and allow it to sunset, as Congress originally intended?
Feedback: Most of our representatives seem to be in support of letting it expire. We’ll still need monitor, wait and see. NOTE: The Senate Commerce Chairman, Sen. Roger Wicker from Mississippi, said he believes reauthorizing STELAR is “must pass” legislation.
A Performance Tax Threatens Local Jobs
The issue: Congress should not mandate a performance tax on free, local radio stations that would jeopardize local jobs, prevent new artists from breaking into the recording business and harm the 270 million Americans who rely on local radio. Broadcasters urge legislators to stand up for their local radio listeners by supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes a performance tax.
Background: For nearly a century, record labels and performers have thrived from airplay – which is essentially free advertising – from local radio stations. But despite record revenues from streaming services, the big record labels continue to urge Congress to impose a tax on the local radio stations that are, ironically, their greatest promotional tool. Each Congress, legislation backed by the record labels is introduced that would impose a new fee on local radio stations simply for airing music on the radio. This legislation would financially cripple local radio stations, harming the millions of listeners who rely on local radio for news, emergency information, weather updates and entertainment every day.
Radio’s free promotion is worth billions of dollars annually to the record labels in the form of additional revenue from music streaming, sales, concert tickets and merchandise. Here’s how:
- Local radio continues to be the top source for listeners seeking new music.
- Free radio airplay provides the recording industry increased popularity, visibility and sales for both established and new artists.
- Promotion by local radio goes beyond the music to include concert and festival promotion, on-air interviews and social media marketing.
Recognizing the promotional value of free radio airplay, Congress has repeatedly rejected the record labels’ attempts to impose a harmful performance tax on local radio stations. The Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes any new tax, fee or royalty on local radio stations, enjoys strong bipartisan support in both chambers. This strong support for local radio was made clear in the recent enactment of the Music Modernization Act, consensus legislation that benefitted all stakeholders – and did not contain a performance tax. Broadcasters have consistently demonstrated good faith in working with the record labels to try to resolve the performance tax issue through private discussions. In the past few years, numerous radio companies and record labels have negotiated private deals of their own that compensate copyright owners and performers, demonstrating the ability of the marketplace to best address the issue.
The bottom line: Broadcasters are firmly opposed to a government-imposed performance tax, but stand ready to work with Congress and the music industry on a balanced music licensing proposal that promotes innovation and recognizes the benefit to artists and listeners of radio’s free, locally-focused platform.
Our ask…Will you stand up for your local radio stations and their listeners by cosponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes a performance tax?
Feedback: Rep. DeFazio and Rep Walden are supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act. Sen. Wyden is very supportive and may also sign on soon.
Other issues being discussed include:
The issue: Congress must work closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that their constituents do not lose access to their local TV stations during the ongoing broadcast repack process. The FCC must apply a fair and equitable waiver process to ensure that no TV station is forced off the air if it is unable to meet a repack deadline due to circumstances outside its control.
The issue: The C-band is a strip of satellite spectrum that radio and TV stations use every day to receive critical content for their broadcasts. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering transferring some or all of that spectrum to wireless companies for new services, which could impact the programming listeners and viewers rely upon.
Both of these are being watched and discussed and for now are not front and center. If and when that changes we will be discussing with Congress.