SALT LAKE CITY — In addition to aiding U.S. small businesses during the pandemic, members of Congress have asked the president to help the local news media outlets across the nation, which have seen an increase in audience numbers but a decline in advertising revenue.
Rep. John Curtis of Utah and members of Congress signed two letters urging President Donald Trump and the Office of Management and Budget to direct federal advertising funds to support local radio, television, and newspapers during the coronavirus crisis.
“We urge you [the president] work with us in ensuring that local media can continue to inform communities, even as these outlets face unprecedented economic distress,” according to the House letter.
John Curtis: “the letter is bipartisan and bicameral”
Curtis joined Lee Lonsberry on “Live Mic” to talk about the letter to the president and the state of the news media during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Talk to me for a moment about that letter and what prompted you to send it to President Trump,” Lee asked.
“The letter is bipartisan and bicameral,” Curtis said. “There is a companion letter in the Senate.
“Most of us feel more comfortable with our local news source than our national new source. We trust it more,” Curtis said.
“The letter is simply to acknowledge that — like everyone else in our economy — media outlets have a serious challenge. And that is the revenue of their customers, who would normally advertise on the air, is cut dramatically and therefore they’re cutting their expenditures. And we can’t leave out media in our rush to be helpful.
“Those of us who signed the letter are simply saying, we’re not asking for additional funds … we want to make sure our local media outlets are getting their portion of this [stimulus] so you [media] can keep us informed, let us know what’s going on and help us navigate this very difficult situation,” Curtis said.
“Many of the people in Utah don’t care what a congressman does in Des Moines,” he said. “But they sure care what one does in Utah. So the local outlets are just critical in people’s lives.”
Rural broadcasters of particular concern
The second letter to Mr. Trump was sent by a bipartisan group of senators focusing on the needs of rural broadcasters.
“In many rural areas, broadcast stations are the predominant or only form of local information,” the letter read.
“It is important that local media are able to continue to provide their services during the COVID-19 pandemic so that Americans are able to stay up to date with the latest news and information,” the Senate letter continued.
Former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, who is president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, also joined Lee to discuss how rural broadcasters have been affected by the ongoing pandemic.
“What can you tell us about the letter that senators sent on behalf of rural broadcasters to the Office of Management and Budget?” Lee asked.
“That letter really does highlight just how important it is in rural areas, especially where people are highly dependent upon their local radio stations … It is an essential electric thread in tying together these rural communities.
“We’re trying to get the government to recognize how vital a link this is to our nation, our state, our communities. And we’re asking them to advertise and help fill in the gap and do whatever else they can to include media generally but radio specifically in these relief efforts,” Smith said.
Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.