Local broadcast station groups, with the support of the ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS Television Affiliate Associations representing more than 600 local TV stations across the country have launched The Coalition for Local News, a new advocacy group urging lawmakers and regulators to act now to protect the future of local news in America.
The Coalition for Local News said it is dedicated to the belief that local news is essential to the well-being of local communities across the nation and is a vital pillar of American democracy. As the most trusted source of news for Americans, local news broadcasts provide timely coverage of important issues and events, emergency weather service, and access to lifesaving information.
“The future of local broadcast news is threatened by regulations that need to be modernized and government inaction in exercising existing authority to protect the ability of local news outlets to compete,” the group said in its press release.
The Coalition said it will “be engaged in an array of advocacy efforts, including working with groups that recognize the vital importance of local news and urging them to get involved in this debate.”
The group is taking aim at what it called the streaming loophole in the current FCC rule requiring cable and satellite providers, but not online streaming services, to negotiate directly with local broadcasters for carriage of their stations.
It said that under current rules local stations have been cut out of the negotiating process with streaming services. Without the ability to negotiate directly with streaming services, local broadcasters cannot obtain the compensation necessary for them to sustain their substantial investments in local news.
“Local broadcast stations can thrive in a fair marketplace. We have demonstrated as much over the past 30 years of successful competition in the cable and satellite era. But no business can succeed when the rules don’t apply fairly and reflect today’s reality,” said Mike Meara, former chair of the ABC television Affiliates Association and member of the Coalition. “The market has evolved dramatically and it’s time for lawmakers and regulators to act to protect local broadcast news.”
The FCC began a process to consider the issue of the streaming loophole back in 2014 when it solicited public comment, but it has not addressed the issue since.
Last month, Senator Maria Cantwell sent a letter to the FCC requesting that it refresh the record to address the current media environment and protect local news in the streaming era. Among the Coalition’s chief priorities is urging the FCC to do just that – refresh the record now with comments that reflect the vastly changed market realities of 2023. Last week, the FCC announced its intent to consider updating a separate set of longstanding program carriage rules, an acknowledgment of the need to modernize video regulations in light of a changing marketplace.
“Congress and the FCC have always modernized federal rules in other contexts to keep them in line with advancements in communications technologies and changes in the marketplace. All we ask is that we modernize these regulations to reflect the current marketplace so local broadcasters are able to compete and thrive on a level playing field,” says Michael O’Brien, svp at The E.W. Scripps Company, and member of the Coalition. “This ‘streaming loophole’ takes direct investments away from local broadcasters and allows national media conglomerates to control the right to local broadcasters’ signals, ultimately deciding the fate of local news.”
You can visit their website at coalitionforlocalnews.org to learn more.