Reps Seek Trump Help on Ad Bucks for Local Media

Circulate letter to get colleagues to back push for COVID-19 related relief
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A bipartisan group of House members is trying to drum up support among their colleagues by April 17 for a broadcaster proposal to direct federal agency ad budgets--COVID PSAs, census participation campaigns, etc.--to local media and to incentivize small businesses getting CARES Act relief funds to use some of that for local media advertising.

That is according to a "dear colleague" email being circulated on the Hill to get other legislators to back a letter to President Trump.

Circulating the dear colleague email, which includes a copy of the Trump letter, are Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Marc Veasey (D-Texas) and Bill Flores (R-Texas).

The National Association of Broadcasters joined with the News Media Alliance, the National Newspaper Association, and America's Newspapers last week to ask that the next COVID-19 aid bill fund ad-supported media by directing U.S. government ad campaigns to local media provide $5 billion-$10 billion in direct funding for local media advertising.

They argue that while people are "rushing" to local news outlets, most of the value has gone to the "dominant tech platforms."

In addition, a group of senators last week wrote to their leadership calling on them to include aid for local media and journalism in the next COVID-19 aid package

The letter to Trump seeks to go straight to the source--the Executive Branch agencies--and asks the President to:

1. "Direct your Cabinet secretaries to review any resources intended to be used for advertising campaigns and have them expedite such activities with local media outlets;

2. "Direct federal agency advertising dollars for existing and new federal programs where community outreach is needed for spending with local media, including those serving minority and rural communities; and

3. "Incentivize a portion of stimulus funds provided to businesses for their recovery efforts for advertising on local media."

That draft letter to the President is reprinted in full below:

Dear President Trump,

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting local communities across our nation in unprecedented ways.

All Americans are attempting to understand the full measure of this crisis, even as it continues to evolve on a daily basis. As in many of our nation’s most challenging times, the public turns to free and local media for life-saving information and breaking news, because local radio, television and newspapers are still the most trusted sources in times of emergency and disaster. We urge you work with us in ensuring that local media can continue to inform communities, even as these outlets face unprecedented economic distress.

Local news and information on radio, television and newsprint is more in demand than ever, yet local media outlets are experiencing catastrophic losses in the advertising revenue that allows them to continue investing in providing that news to the public. This national emergency has caused a near halt to local business activity and in turn, the regular and vital advertising they purchase from local media. Without advertising revenue, local media outlets cannot survive.

We believe that Executive Branch agencies have a powerful opportunity to support local media and promote public awareness by directing that federal spending on advertising be prioritized for local media outlets. Specifically, we encourage federal agencies to put into action today already funded campaigns to achieve certain public objectives as well as potential promotions of the economic stimulus programs provided for by the CARES Act and other recent legislation. We urge you to:

1. Direct your Cabinet secretaries to review any resources intended to be used for advertising campaigns and have them expedite such activities with local media outlets;

2. Direct federal agency advertising dollars for existing and new federal programs where community outreach is needed for spending with local media, including those serving minority and rural communities; and

3. Incentivize a portion of stimulus funds provided to businesses for their recovery efforts for advertising on local media.

To get America moving again and strengthen our communities in the midst of this evolving crisis, we must be creative and use all available tools. Advertising plays an incredible role in local economies, and its importance to the sustainability of local broadcast stations and newspapers cannot be overstated. We thank you for your efforts so that Americans may continue to rely on the sources of local information they trust the most. 

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