Hello and welcome back to the NVBA Washington Update. With plenty of changes afoot in Washington, we’ll use these updates to get you up to speed on what’s happening in the telecom world and what’s driving the agenda in the nation’s capital.
It should come as no surprise that healthcare and the GOP’s repeal and replacement of Obamacare is sucking up most of the policymaking oxygen in DC. Broadcasters, however, have plenty to look out for in the coming weeks: the close of the incentive auction and start of the 39-month repacking timeline; more moves by the FCC to roll back Obama-era regulations; continued discussion of changes to the tax treatment of advertising; increasing cosponsorship of the pro-radio Local Radio Freedom Act; and more.
As always, please send us your tips, comments, concerns, and critiques to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TVNewsCheck: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai On Tap For NAB Show: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will address the 2017 NAB Show at a General Session open to all attendees on Tuesday, April 25, in Las Vegas. The address is expected to provide insight into the FCC’s policy and regulatory objectives related to broadcasting, technology and communications law and regulation. Why this matters? Chairman Pai, widely seen as friendly to broadcasters, will receive a warm welcome when he visits the Silver State. The Las Vegas show attracts more than 100,000 broadcasters, content producers, programmers, equipment/technology manufacturers and more from all over the world.
The Hill: Senate Dems Grill FCC Chairman: In his first month on the job, Chairman Ajit Pai has quickly begun rolling back a number of Obama-era initiatives and regulations, and faced tough questions from Dems at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing. Why this matters? This is a reminder that, while broadcasters generally approve of Chairman Pai’s policies, the chairman isn’t universally loved and faces opposition from Democrats and other industries. The chairman, even when the two open commissioner seats are filled, will still hold only a one-vote majority.
TVNewsCheck: Andy Lack to Trump: We Won’t Be Intimidated: NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said . . . that the president’s attacks on some media outlets won’t deter his organization from doing its job. NBC News was one of the organizations specifically cited by Trump last month in his tweet about the “fake news” media that is the “enemy of the American people.” Said Lack: “We’re not the opposition party and we’re not in a popularity contest with this administration or any other administration.” Why this matters? Broadcast journalism is deeply rooted in fair and accurate coverage of presidents, policymakers, and current events and now, perhaps more than ever, it’s incumbent upon broadcasters to inform the American people. Reporting without fear or favor is what broadcasters do best.
InsideRadio: In Washington, Tax Reform Plans May Affect Advertising: “Ad tax deductibility is shaping up as a potential big fight,” National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith said. He tells Inside Radio that’s especially true when Congress is looking for ways to fund new spending, along with seeking cuts elsewhere in the budget. “Whenever Congress is looking for ‘pay-fors’ the ad tax deductibility is part of the discussion,” Smith, himself a former Oregon Senator, said. Why this matters? President Trump has begun sketching out details for a $1 trillion infrastructure plan and will have to find ways to fund it. One way to do so is to reform the tax code. While the president hasn’t publicly called for changes to the deductibility of advertising (it’s estimated to raise $169 billion), other tax reform proposals floating around Washington have and broadcasters must engage early and often with any threats to their business model. The NVBA discussed this issue earlier this month with our congressional delegation and will continue to advocate against any changes to the tax treatment of advertising.
Broadcasting and Cable: FCC: No Consumer Should Be Harmed in TV Repack: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee, thanked the FCC commissioners for overseeing a first of its kind, “successful” broadcast incentive auction, but had some worries about what comes next. Schatz said . . . that while everyone wants faster internet and better coverage, he had concerns that “consumers could lose access to their local broadcast station if channels are forced off the air in the repacking process if the stations cannot repack in the 39-month time frame.”
Why this matters? FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly committed to working to minimize the impact on consumers of the incentive auction’s repack. This could mean more flexibility for broadcasters in the funding and timeline of the repack.