INITIATIVES AT NATIONAL LEVEL AROUND THE WORLD
Special credit lines for broadcasters
The Banco do Nordeste (BNB), which has an agreement with the Cearense Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (ACERT) to modernize the technology park for radio broadcast and the migration from AM to FM, announced the possibility of extending the payment of loans contracted by companies for up to six months. Credit lines for working capital were also opened, with a grace period of up to six months.
The emergency measure focuses mainly on micro and small companies in northeast Brazil and part of the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo
The Federal Government passes the credit law for micro and small businesses
The Law No. 13.999 / 20 was published in the Official Federal Gazette on May 19, establishing the Pronampe (National Program to Support Micro and Small Businesses) for the development and strengthening of small businesses during the pandemic.
Under the rules of the new law, owners of micro and small businesses may borrow amounts corresponding to up to 30% of gross income for the year 2019. Businesses with less than one year of operation will be able to choose between borrowing up to 50% of the share capital or up to 30% of the average monthly income calculated from the start of the company’s activities.
The law also establishes that the funds received will be used to finance the commercial activity in a comprehensive way, including for investments and working capital, with the amounts received by Pronampe being used only for the distribution of profits and dividends among the partners. In exchange for making credit available, the beneficiary companies must maintain the number of employees.
The financial institutions that participate in Pronampe will be able to formalize the operations, observing the maximum annual interest rate limit equal to the Selic rate, currently at 3%, plus 1,25% on the amount granted, and the 36-month-payment period.
Interested radio and TV stations may request loans from any participating private banks and Banco do Brasil, which will coordinate the financing guarantee, in addition to other public banks that can join the program.
Deadlines for paying broadcasting contributions are extended
In response to a request made by ABERT (Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters) to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC), Provisional Measure 952 was published in an additional edition of the Official Gazette on April 15, which extends the payment of the Supervision Fee of the operation (TTF, which is part of Fistel), of the Contribution to the promotion of public broadcasting (CFRP) and of the Contribution to the development of the national film industry (Condecine), in the year 2020*.
The National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) had previously announced the extension of the payment of TFF and CFRP, which is due from March 31 to April 15. Since the publication of the Provisional Measure, the payment of the three taxes can be done, at the taxpayer’s discretion, in two ways:
– in a single payment, which expires on August 31, 2020; or
– in up to five successive monthly instalments, with expiration date on the last business day of each month, and the first instalment expiring on August 31, 2020. Selic, the Federal securities market, will adjust the instalments, without penalty or additional interest.
* TFF is a fee that is charged annually to radio and television stations and aims to pay the expenses incurred by the federal government for telecommunications inspection, as well as the development of new means and techniques to improve this activity. The CFRP is intended to promote public broadcasting services. Condecine is a contribution collected annually from television stations, and the income goes to the National Culture Fund (FNC) and the Audiovisual Sector Fund.
Government enables multiprogramming during the pandemic
The Decree No. 10,312, of the Presidency of the Republic, of April 4, 2020, allows the use of multiprogramming by commercial and educational stations for a period of up to 12 months from the date of publication of the decree. The use of the resource must be done through partnerships between broadcasting organizations and the federal, state, district or municipal government.
According to the General Standard for the Execution of Digital Public Television Services – No. 01/2009, this resource is only allowed for channels assigned to organs and entities that are part of the powers of the Union (EBC, Federal Chamber, Senate and Justice). This standard was approved by Ordinance No. 24, 02/02/09.
Since the Presidential Decree, due to the pandemic, this permission has been extended to all commercial and educational radio stations in Brazil. The measure is valid for 12 months from the date of publication of the decree.
Those broadcasting organizations interested in taking part must sign an agreement or similar instrument to establish an association with the Union, the States, the Federal District or the municipalities. Subsequently, they will communicate the use of the resource to the MCTIC, within a period of 30 days, accompanied by a copy of said agreement or similar instrument. Membership is voluntary. The responsibility for the content lies with the station and this content is exclusively related to education, science, technology, innovations, citizenship and health activities.
Suspension of payments to the State and other relief measures
In Colombia, health emergency has been decreed and mandatory isolation of all nationals has been ordered until April 13, however, radio and television services were declared essential public services, so they did not stop providing their services. Payments due to the State for compensations, concessions, licenses and use of spectrum have been suspended until May 30, and it is not considered forgiveness of debt.
In the labour field, it is allowed to advance employee vacations during the time of emergency and the retirement of layoffs for those who take unpaid leave.
In Bogotá, the payment of some taxes has been deferred for the months of June and July and the National Government has made the payment of public services more flexible.
Postponement of payment of obligations to the Single Fund for Information and Communication Technologies
By Decree 658 of May 13, 2020 – Article 3. Payment of obligations to the Single Fund for Information and Communication Technologies, in charge of operators of community television, community and public interest radio – the Government of Colombia resolved to postpone payments to be made by operators of the community sound broadcasting and public interest service and by operators of the non-profit community television service to the Single Fund for Information and Communication Technologies until 2021. The Ministry of Information Technology and Communications will regulate the matter.
AAAVMS grants financial aid to broadcasters to cope
AAAVMS, the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services granted financial aid to the television and radio stations, support to help cope with the consequences of this new reality, and ensure the primary role and obligations of broadcasters towards the public in times of crisis. The fund includes:
– Approximately €1.184.976 allocated to commercial and non-profit broadcasters holding television or radio broadcasting licenses,
– Around €486.976 assigned to the Public Broadcasting Service, i.e. Macedonian Radio and Television.
These funds have been granted for the purpose of providing protection for the media workers through purchase of protection equipment; for expenditures related to the production, procurement and broadcasting of programme; to help alleviate the adverse effects of the Coronavirus outbreak on the broadcasters’ economic performance; to support freedom of expression and information, and to enable their smooth functioning. All these measures are aimed at ensuring broadcasters’ smooth functioning and carrying out of their primary role and obligations towards the public: providing timely, objective and comprehensive information about the current situation, the prevention of the Coronavirus spread and the measures taken up by the competent institutions.
Government of Panama passes bill 295
Making use of constitutional authority, the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, passed bill 295 that adopts special social measures for the temporary suspension of the payment of public services such as electric power, fixed and mobile telephony and the internet. Acting on the basis of achieving the best interests of the economy and the well-being of Panamanians, the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, announced that after four intense negotiation sessions with the Panama Banking Association (ABP), an agreement that substantially improves the conditions proposed by Article 2 of Bill 287 was reached, allowing the moratorium to be extended until December 31, 2020.
The agreement with the banks includes a moratorium until December 31, 2020 for: mortgages (residential loans), personal loans, to small and medium-sized businesses, to the agricultural, commercial, transportation, cars and credit card sectors. “These measures protect the savings of all Panamanians and allow our banking system to continue standing. It is the most important banking center in the region that maintains 26 thousand direct jobs “he said. The President endorsed article 6 of bill 287 that provides that the National Authority of Public Services must adopt measures with public service providers so that radio stations can be granted a moratorium on payment for 90 days, extendable.
Suspension of procedures related to broadcasting services and private telecommunications services
The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) suspended the procedures related to broadcasting services and private telecommunications services and therefore will not be affected by the lack of compliance with obligations, during the State of National Emergency.
This measure covers, among other obligations, the rectification of requirements of form and substance, presentation of renewals. It also includes the terms provided by the Radio and Television Law Regulations and the General Telecommunications Law Regulations for compliance with the declaration and payment of financial obligations. Likewise, the payments of the instalments whose quotas are due during the period of the State of National Emergency.
Director General of Telecommunications Authorizations, Mariella Carrasco, recalled that “no procedure of those administered will be harmed. This with the purpose of guaranteeing the broadcasting services and the communications that appear between private entities while the emergency lasts and the fulfillment of the obligatory social isolation.”
Government approves Federal Stimulus Package
After intense bipartisan negotiations, the House and Senate have finally both passed, and President Trump has signed a $2 trillion plus stimulus relief package to help American families and businesses make it through the coronavirus pandemic. The package is the biggest economic rescue package in modern American history.
The Small Business Administration Loan Program will support loans of up to 250 percent of average monthly payroll, up to $10 million. This effort is targeted at small businesses, non-profits and veteran organizations with up to 500 employees; self-employed and “gig economy” individuals; and other specific industry sectors. The loans are to available immediately through SBA-certified lenders (banks, credit unions, etc.)
Corporate tax changes will allow employers to defer payroll taxes incurred through the end of 2020, with half to be repaid by the end of 2021. There will be Treasury loans for “distressed industries” from a $454 billion pool. Other points include enhanced unemployment insurance payments; an additional $600 per week for every person applying for unemployment benefits, over and above normal state benefits; and an employee retention tax credit program.
The National Association of Broadcasters welcomed the historic Federal Stimulus Package and has released a list of key provisions of interest to broadcasting companies.
“NAB is grateful to Congress and the White House for passage of the coronavirus relief package today”, President / CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement. “Allowing businesses with fewer than 500 employees to gain access to forgivable Small Business Administration loans will go a long way towards keeping many broadcasters and local businesses afloat during these difficult times”. Smith said that “the devastation to Main Street businesses – and to local broadcasters who support those businesses to drive commerce in hometowns across America – is unprecedented”. He said NAB plans to advocate for further relief for broadcasters.
Specific measure to support the media sector still to be taken
The Uruguayan Government has not taken specific measures to support the media sector, although various requests have been sent to it for consideration. Meanwhile, broadcasting companies have resorted to the unemployment insurance system that applies to all private sectors of the activity. This consists of the suspension of the labour contracts of its workers for a maximum period of up to 4 months, and the government takes over their salaries at a percentage of 50% of their usual remuneration.
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