WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ATVA responded to the passage of a new coronavirus relief package, which included a bail-out of America’s largest broadcast conglomerates.
“The latest stimulus package has now made stimulus funds which were originally intended for small businesses–available to some of the largest broadcast conglomerates in America, like Nexstar, TEGNA, and Sinclair,” stated ATVA spokesperson, Jessica Kendust. “These big broadcasters have reported huge profits this year and now they are positioned to reap millions of dollars each in a handout from taxpayers. We hope that these large and profitable companies understand the public service obligations expected of those demanding taxpayer support – obligations they should keep in mind when deciding whether to black out the ‘locally focused or emergency information’ that Congress is seeking to protect.”
Congress created PPP loans to provide relief from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic to small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Large broadcast conglomerates have qualified for the program by counting only the number of employees at each individual station. These large station groups do much more than franchise their trademarks to individual stations. By law, they must control each station, including its personnel, programming, and finances. In addition, these same parent firms routinely decide to blackout their stations to consumers as part of retransmission fee negotiations.
Even during the pandemic, broadcasters continued to use blackouts as a bargaining chip against consumers while negotiating retransmission consent fees. In the last month, both TEGNA and Nexstar forced record-breaking blackouts of millions of DISH and AT&T customers in an effort to increase fees. These recent broadcaster blackouts removed 240 stations in 44 states around the country.
“These blackouts should never have happened. And now that taxpayers are subsidizing these broadcasters’ already-profitable operations, they must stop using these tactics,” stated Kendust.
The American Television Alliance (ATVA) brings together an unprecedented coalition of consumer groups, cable, satellite, telephone companies, and independent programmers to raise awareness about the risk TV viewers face as broadcasters increasingly threaten service disruptions that would deny viewers access to the programs they and their families enjoy.