Washington -- The National Association of Broadcasters and
the National Cable & Telecommunications Association may be on opposite
sides of the retransmission-consent 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 Citizens United decision,
which lifted a 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 non-pre-emptible spots, which usually go for a premium,
and to extend the LUC to political parties and political action committees.
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 ads), the changes to the lowest unit rate in the bill could
discourage advertising and lower media outlets' take from the upcoming midterm
In their joint letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), NCTA president Kyle McSlarrow and
NAB joint board chairman Steve Newberry said they are "greatly
concerned" about expanding the scope of the lowest unit charge. They are
also concerned about what they call "burdensome and unworkable"
reporting requirments in the bill, which would require random audits of TV
stations and cable networks.
"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.