May 13 2020
WASHINGTON—As local newspapers and broadcasters continue to struggle with the financial impacts of the coronavirus crisis, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) has joined with colleagues to introduce legislation that will make these outlets eligible for relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
"Arkansans rely on the quality coverage we receive from our local newspapers, television affiliates and radio stations to remain informed throughout this crisis. Local newsrooms are reporting important details residents need that are not included in national coverage. At a time when we need this communication more than ever, these outlets are suffering from a dramatic reduction in advertising revenue leading to decisions to downsize, furlough workers or close. Ensuring the viability of local news outlets is critical to maintaining access to information," Boozman said.
Local newspapers and broadcasters have seen a sharp decrease in advertising revenue since the onset of the coronavirus crisis. In the last few months, local newspapers have lost as much as 50 percent of advertising revenue, and the National Association of Broadcasters found that some local broadcasters have reported losses of up to 90 percent. As a result, local news outlets find themselves in a precarious financial situation, putting thousands of jobs in jeopardy.
In an effort to stem the tide, Boozman signed on as an original cosponsor of the Local News and Emergency Information Act of 2020—authored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)—which would allow local newspapers, radio and TV stations to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). An outlet would qualify as long as its individual physical location meets the separate size standard set by the Small Business Administration (SBA), which limits newspapers to fewer than 1,000 employees and caps gross receipts for broadcasters at less than $41.5 million.
The funding would have to be used to keep local reporters and those who support them on the job as they produce local news, information, content or emergency information. To that end, the SBA could require the newspaper, radio or TV station to demonstrate that the loan is necessary for this purpose. No portion of the loan could be paid or transferred to a parent company or used for other purposes.
This legislation follows on the heels of an effort Boozman joined urging Senate leadership to ensure that future legislation includes a fix to the SBA’s affiliation rule to make thousands of local newspapers, TV and radio stations around the country eligible for small business assistance under the PPP.