During the first quarter of 2011, the National Association of Broadcasters invested $3.8M lobbying in Washington on behalf of the television and radio business it represents. That is right in line with its lobbying expenses the quarter prior, and the quarter one year prior. Television issues dominated the current cycle.
According to Forbes.com, the $3.8M Q1 2011 effort was $200K more than it spent in Q1 2011, when the tab was $3.6M; and it was $100K more than the organization spent Q4 2010, when it invested $3.7M in trying to influence policymakers.
The number one issue has been dictated primarily by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has been targeted television spectrum for repurposing with an eye on creating more space in the airwaves for mobile broadband. There have been many congressional hearings that included discussion of allowing the FCC to conduct voluntary incentive auctions to further this goal, and bills on the topic have introduced. Not surprisingly, this is at the top of the issues that are keeping NAB lobbyists busy of late. The NAB’s stated position is that it has no objection to the auctions, as long as they are truly voluntary, do not cause stations to suffer reduced coverage or heightened interference due to channel repacking, and does not come with a new spectrum fee.
Another warm topic is also related to the television side – the ongoing efforts of MVPDs to bring government intervention into the retransmission consent negotiation process. This topic has also been the subject of Capitol Hill hearings, and more to the point, the FCC opened a proceeding on it.
NAB’s posture on this issue is totally defensive – it is pointing out repeatedly that the current system is not broken, and results in a fair and equitable outcome without any disruption of service to viewers in the vast majority of instances.
The key radio issue during the past few years has been the battle with the recording industry over performance royalties. That issue seems to have devolved into a stalemate, and it was not mentioned as a key issue in this round of talks. Instead, the related issue of mandating an FM chip in mobile phones has topped the list of radio issues on the NAB lobbying agenda. The idea is related to performance royalties only because it was a key bargaining chip in that now stalled royalty negotiation.
NAB also weighed in on the federal reporters’ shield law. Most of its activity took place on Capitol Hill and at the FCC, and also included other federal agencies.