The Coalition for Local News represents local broadcast station owners and includes the support of the ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS network affiliate associations, serving more than 600 local television stations across the country.

The coalition has come together out of a shared belief that local news is essential to the well-being of our communities and is a vital pillar of American democracy that it is now threatened by regulations that need to be modernized and government inaction. We urge Congress and the FCC to act now to protect local news in America. The FCC can take the first step today by immediately reopening the public comment docket related to the so-called “streaming loophole” that enables national networks to negotiate directly with streaming services, cutting local TV stations out of the process and limiting their ability to negotiate for fair compensation. We further ask government officials at all levels to engage on this issue and determine whether and how they can support a sustainable local news industry.

TV Camera at a Local Media Conference

About the Issue

The Threat to Local News

However, regulations haven’t kept pace with the current media marketplace.

In 2014, the FCC proposed requiring streamers that want to carry local TV signals to negotiate directly with local broadcasters, just as cable and satellite TV providers must, but no action has been taken to date.

This is referred to as “retransmission consent,” over which the FCC has authority.

The retransmission consent rules and the market-based revenues local broadcasters receive from these negotiations have allowed broadcasters to reinvest in local news and avoid the economic ruin that most local newspapers are experiencing.

This means streamers (like Google’s YouTube TV, Disney’s Hulu + Live TV and others) do not have to negotiate directly with local broadcast stations to carry their signal. This so-called “streaming loophole” lets the national networks muscle out local TV stations and negotiate directly with streaming services.

Local broadcasters are then presented with a take-it-or-leave-it deal for streamers to carry their stations. Without the ability to negotiate for fair compensation, local TV stations can’t make investments into their local news operations.

As cable and satellite use plummets and streaming grows to (and soon far beyond) 34% of the market, those below-market deals mean significant lost revenue for local news stations, threatening their ability to sustain investment in local news coverage over time.

Local broadcast stations can and will thrive in a fair marketplace, but the rules need to catch up to the current media environment.

As the nation’s chief regulator of the broadcast industry, the FCC should use its pending rulemaking proceeding to refresh the record with public comments and new data to reflect the current marketplace.

This process will allow industry stakeholders to voice their viewpoints and concerns and provide insight for Congress and other federal agencies to better understand the video marketplace and where action is needed to preserve local news investments and achieve market balance.

Legislators at all levels should pursue opportunities to close the regulatory loophole and ensure the future of local news.

The rules must be updated for the current media environment to ensure that local broadcasters are able to negotiate directly with streamers, just as they do with providers of traditional cable and satellite services, sustaining local community investment.

Communications Act creates FCC to regulate radio technology in the public interest
Television era begins (free to consumers and available over the air with an antenna)
Cable television allows for delivery of multiple video channels over cable for a fee
Cable Act required carriage of local television stations
Satellite Home Viewer Act passed to promote satellite competition to cable
Cable Act required retransmission consent to promote local television stations
Telecommunications Act expanded video competition between telecommunications companies, cable, satellite, and broadcast
Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act imposed “carry one carry all”
The FCC proposed placing streaming services delivering multiple streams of video programming in the same regulatory class as cable and satellite. This rulemaking remains pending today. Streaming services were nascent and did not dominate the industry with well over 80% of U.S. households still having cable or satellite subscriptions.
Streaming has skyrocketed with nearly 90% of U.S. homes now using one or more streaming service.

"Summer 2022, for the first time streaming services claimed the largest share of the television viewing audience, surpassing both cable and broadcast TV. Streaming captured 34.8 percent of July viewers, according to Nielsen data, compared to 34.4 percent for cable and 21.6 percent for broadcast.” (The Hill)