Broadcasting through COVID

By: Katie McAuliffe

As the nation continues to face uncertainty in the wake of COVID-19, government needs to be creative in assisting individuals and industry, especially community businesses, without raising taxes or implementing an unending parade of spending increases. This can be done through thoughtful distribution of already appropriated funding. 

Ensuring that local broadcast stations are able to continue operations throughout the pandemic to provide vital updates and information is critical, and government is in a unique position to support local television and radio broadcasters through this crisis without going to the taxpayer well.

To be clear, we are talking about local television and radio broadcasters – the local news teams in your hometown – not the twenty-four-hour cable news cycle or digital streams.

Local broadcast stations operate much like franchises or small businesses and employ many people who contribute directly to their communities, not only through the provision of news and entertainment, but as fixtures in the community. These local television and radio stations rely heavily on advertising support. Unfortunately, advertising revenue for local TV and radio nationwide is projected to drop by about $14 billion.

Almost every federal agency has a limited advertising budget to inform taxpayers of existing government programs.

Based on a 10-year average, the Department of Defense accounts for 63% of all federal government spending on advertising to the tune of $626 million. The Health and Human Services budget is around $117 million, while the Department of Commerce, mostly through Census Bureau adverts, and Department of Transportation both average an advertising budget around $38 million.

Considering the vital role that local news plays in keeping communities informed and connected, especially during emergency situations, and the need these stations are facing now, government agencies should choose to spend already allotted federal agency advertising dollars with local media throughout the crisis and recovery. 

Photo Credit: Joe Andy Mendoza