Taking care of business in Washington


Among the many hats worn by broadcast veteran Larry Patrick, one of the most important is that of Chairman of NABPAC, the organization responsible for seeing to it that broadcasters have friends on Capitol Hill who understand the real life consequences behind the issues of the day. See his wrap-up of the main focus points in Washington this year, and hey – send NABPAC some cash so it can work for you.

Protecting and promoting the future of our business

Larry Patrick, Chairman, National Association of Broadcasters Political Action Committee

While the nation focuses on the battle taking place in the presidential election, broadcasters are facing their own battles in our nation’s capital. Now more than ever, local broadcasters are dealing with challenges in the legislative and regulatory arenas that greatly impact our businesses. And in this tough environment, our best weapon is a strong political action committee dedicated to ensuring that we have friends in Congress.

For broadcasters, the congressional elections are the key to making sure we succeed in our battles ahead. By raising money from broadcasters and contributing it to candidates who understand our issues and stand beside us, we can protect this industry and make certain that broadcasters’ voices are heard in Washington, D.C. More than anything, the NAB Political Action Committee (NABPAC) is an insurance policy for our business.

The bipartisan NABPAC bolsters the National Association of Broadcasters’ aggressive advocacy team, providing broadcasters with a strong political presence on Capitol Hill.  We give to both Democrats and Republicans with an eye of doing what is best for broadcasting.

In the year ahead, we’re keeping a close eye on several issues that could have severe ramifications for broadcasters:

* Performance tax: Allies of the big record labels are attempting to pass legislation that would impose a performance tax on local radio stations for playing music. But NAB has mounted an aggressive counter-offensive, helping to successfully secure 224 congressional cosponsors of H. Con. Res. 244, the Local Radio Freedom Act, an anti-performance tax resolution. That’s more than a majority of the House. We have numerous cosponsors of a companion resolution in the Senate as well. Unfortunately, we can not rest on our laurels. We know this will be a multi-year effort by the record labels.

* Localism: Despite having jettisoned strict localism rules in 1995, the FCC is now proposing mandating localism regulations that are unnecessary, burdensome and reflect an outdated regulatory mindset. To date, 161 members of Congress and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have written to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin expressing concern that the proposal ignores the stark realities of the media business as it exists today.

* Interference Zones (Otherwise known as White Spaces): Interference-free television will ensure we can smoothly navigate the digital television transition. In the past year, NAB’s advocacy efforts generated more than 80 members of Congress weighing in with the FCC with concerns about allowing portable, unlicensed devices to operate in the television band. These proposed devices have malfunctioned repeatedly during testing in pristine lab conditions – how do they think they’ll work in the real world?

* XM-Sirius: XM and Sirius have thus far spent $69 million in their effort to become a monopoly – meaning higher prices, fewer choices and reduced services for listeners. Numerous broadcasters and consumer groups are working to ensure the FCC places strict conditions on XM and Sirius, should it choose to approve the merger-to-monopoly.

* Retransmission Consent: Strong and sustained advocacy by NAB has prevented any consideration of proposals that would change retransmission consent rules. We have worked vigorously to educate Congress about the benefits of maintaining a level playing field between broadcasters and cable operators in private, market-driven negotiations. However, this is a primary issue for many cable operators, and we anticipate it will be a major legislative battle in 2009.

* Fairness Doctrine: We must fight the specter of this legislation that would have a chilling effect on free speech. NAB is working with a broad coalition of outside groups that oppose the resurrection of this doctrine.

Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and this is just a sampling of the issues that face broadcasters. Never has the legislative landscape been so cluttered with potential threats to our business. Our success on these issues depends on congressional members who understand our business and the challenges we face daily in the marketplace.

Legislation that affects broadcasters falls mainly under the purview of the Senate and House commerce and judiciary committees. So it’s just smart business to strengthen our support of pro-broadcaster members of these committees and congressional leadership while cultivating strong relationships with all members of Congress. We need to raise our visibility and insure that we maintain strong friends on Capitol Hill.

Personal contributions to the PAC are crucial to our success. Whether it’s $100, $500, $1,000 or the maximum of $5,000, we need the support of every broadcaster in America. Because NAB pays the administrative costs of NABPAC, every dime that is raised goes to pro-broadcaster candidates, not overhead.

For a broadcast industry strong enough to generate more than $40 billion in revenues in 2007, I know that we are capable of growing the PAC. The cable industry outspends us in Congress by a considerable margin. So do the telephone and software companies that want our spectrum. As the only trade association PAC solely representing the interests of broadcasters, it is essential that we stand united in our support of NABPAC.  We need every owner, ever general manager and as many staff members as possible to write a check, however large or small, and send it to NABPAC, c/o NAB in Washington.

My goal is to increase the number of individuals in the industry who contribute the maximum contribution of $5,000. The PAC grew 13 percent in 2007 – this year we have pushed the bar even higher.  Political campaign contributions simply are the way business is done here in Washington.  We need to make our voice heard loud and clear on topics that impact our livelihoods.

This is my first year as NABPAC chairman, and I can honestly tell you, it’s been a great experience. I’m committed to taking on the challenges we’re facing in Washington and fighting attempts to regulate our industry with a strong NABPAC.

I believe it is easier to elect officials who share our philosophy than to change the philosophy of an elected official. With that in mind, I urge you to take the time to learn more about NABPAC and what we’re doing to elect pro-broadcaster candidates to Congress, and I urge you to make a personal contribution today. It’s time for our industry to put its money where its mouth is.

Larry Patrick is managing partner of Patrick Communications, a media brokerage company, as well as Legend Communications, a small-market radio group, and Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters Political Action Committee. Visit www.nab.org/nabpac for more information.