ATVA: Broadcast COVID-19 Bucks Should Come with Blackout Prohibition

Said if stations get aid, they should pledge not to pull signals
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The American Television Alliance said that if "big" broadcasters do manage to secure COVID-19-related small business aid, a three-year moratorium on retrans blackouts should be part of the bargain. 

TV stations and newspapers had wanted to get federal ad dollars and to qualify individually for small business aid even if they were part of a larger broadcast or newspaper company. Those did not make it into the compromise COVID-19 aid bill passed by the Senate Tuesday (April 21), but the National Association of Broadcasters said it would try again in the next aid bill. 

But ATVA, which battles with broadcasters over retrans fee and carriage issues and didn't want them to get the funding, says if they do wind up getting it--there is some solid Hill support for that aid--it should come with the retrans string attached. 

Related: Local Media Outlets Seek COVID-19 Aid 

“ATVA has been clear on our position – we do not believe that large broadcast conglomerates should be eligible for funding meant for small businesses in need of relief,” said ATVA spokesperson Jessica Kendust. “However, if Congress decides to allocate these critical tax dollars to major broadcasting groups, it should require that they not only provide their signals to all consumers, but also refrain from blacking out their signals to customers of any cable, telco, or satellite provider for three years.” 

While broadcasters want each TV and radio station to count as an individual small business, ATVA argues they are controlled by the parent company, including personnel, programming and finances, as retransmission consent negotiations. " when ATVA members negotiate to carry a station owned by Nexstar, we speak with Nexstar headquarters—never with the individual station general manager," ATVA points out. 

ATVA members include ACA Connects, AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, USTelecom and Dish.

“NAB is disappointed that the American Television Alliance – a front group for AT&T, Charter, DISH and other Big Pay TV companies – is leading a cynical effort to deny local media badly-needed access to SBA loans during the coronavirus crisis," said National Association of Broadcasters EVP Dennis Wharton.

"We’re proud of the work of all broadcasters to keep people safe and informed during a pandemic that has created the most difficult circumstances imaginable for local media and our network partners. We make no apologies for seeking access to SBA loans that will keep these companies afloat, support local jobs and commerce, and save American lives.”