What is House Bill H.R. 3426?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 3426
In-Depth: Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who contends that CNN Airport News is a monopoly, introduced this bill to ensure that television equipment in airport terminals isn’t owned exclusively by broadcast/cable television news networks. When he introduced an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 in the 115th Congress also targeting CNN Airport News, Rep. King said:
“It’s time that travelers in airports were allowed to turn the channel on CNN. My amendment would allow greater broadcast choice for the nation’s travelers by eliminating CNN’s efforts to create an ‘airport monopoly’ through the use of agreements that restrict content to only its programs. Competition is good for the marketplace of cable news. Competitive pressures will encourage every network to produce a quality product that people will watch because they choose to do so, not because they are a captive audience forced to do so.”
In a 2018 interview, Rep. King added:
“What we have here is a forced captive audience. You could walk out of a library, but when you're trapped with a long layover, it really doesn't pay to try to escape CNN because you can't escape them. If you're inside security, you're going to hear CNN, and it's offensive to me that it's like Big Brother is deciding what you're going to watch. We shouldn't be force fed information that's selected by any ideology, whether it comes from the right or the left.”
Dr. Robert Thompson, Trustee Professor of Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, says news networks cause strong responses from people, which may cause arguments in today’s charged political atmosphere:
“There is certainly a sense in this country where the mere presence off Fox News playing in a public space upsets people and the mere presence of CNN or NBC playing in a public place upsets other people. And an airport is the last place you want to be fomenting arguments among people. And it's a sorry state of affairs, but we are culturally now in an emotional environment that what's on the television set in a public place can cause a huge argument, and I think that's something to be looked at as well.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlon criticized CNN’s ubiquitous presence in airports in 2018, saying, “Airports feel like a lesser version of hell with dirty seats, overpriced food and propaganda posing as news on CNN.”
This bill doesn’t have any cosponsors.
Of Note: CNN is the main content provider in around 60 airports around the U.S. via the CNN Airport Network, which was established in 1991 as its own special network airing airport-exclusive programming. The CNN Airport Network is aired at over 2,400 gates across the country and CNN says 329 million people are exposed to its broadcasts at airports. Currently, CNN Airport Network is in 20 of the top 25 busiest airports in the U.S. Thus, CNN Airport Network is in view and within earshot for many air travelers.
In order to be present at airports, CNN pays each individual airport a negotiated sum and handles all the infrastructure (i.e., cables and televisions) and costs (i.e., installation and maintenance) involved in displaying its content. These contracts are hefty: in 2019, CNN and Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport signed a new 10-year contract in which the network agreed to pay the airport $225,000 annually to air its airport network. A few years ago, Miami International Airport renewed its CNN Airport Network contract for eight years at a minimum of $150,000 in revenue for the airport.
According the CNN Airport Network, the network’s coverage mix is:
- 25% news, weather and business
- 25% sports (including 80+ NFL games & the Super Bowl, 90+ NBA games, 15+ NCAA names including March Madness and 10+ postseason baseball games)
- 25% entertainment/lifestyle (including Conan, The Carbonaro Effect, TCM, HBO Real Sports and Cartoon Network)
- 25% travel
CNN Airport News also allows six one-minute customized spots for airports to use (usually to promote local destinations) and emergency messaging as needed. The network is on a 10-second delay when streaming live news stories (such as “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer”), so as to avoid airing something that may not be suitable for younger viewers or anything that might involve an airplane tragedy.
An open-ended December 2018 Washington Post poll about “most-trusted” political news sources found CNN in first place with 11% of respondents, while Fox News came in second with 9% of respondents. The Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Safety has found that CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration is largely negative, with CNN tied with NBC at 93% negative and 7% positive over Trump’s first 100 days in office.
- Barack Obama: 41% negative, 59% positive.
- George W. Bush: 57% negative, 43% positive.
- Bill Clinton: 60% negative, 40% positive.
Because nearly all airports are operated by local governments, there’s a question of whether the public in an airport has a right to say which television stations they’d like to watch or have playing in the background at the airport. Radio.com argues, “whether or not a publicly operated entity has the right to force-feed those in the airport a particular source of programming, especially if a high percentage feels the newsfeed is nothing short of political propaganda, is a primary concern.”
In response to this, the ACLU of North Carolina says because airports are viewed as businesses, they don’t fall under the guidelines as public libraries (where CNN Airport News or its ilk wouldn’t be allowed). Government officials are allowed to approve and sign contracts with companies, and the ACLU of North Carolina contends that signing an exclusive contract with CNN is allowable under this principle.
Deadline reports that ReachMe.TV — an upcoming in-airport mobile entertainment network — has partnered with CBS Television Stations in an effort to offer an alternative to CNN Airport News. The ReachMe.TV-CBS deal would provide entertainment, news and sports programming, including local news, weather and sports reports provided by CBS TV Stations; programming from other divisions of CBS Corporation including digital news service CBSN; and film and TV highlight packages from Entertainment Tonight.
- Sponsoring Rep. Steve King (R-IA) Press Release (115th Congress)
- SF Gate
- Fox News (Context)
- Your Mileage May Vary (Context)
- Reader’s Digest (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / surachetsh)
Television Freedom at Our Nation's Airports Act of 2019
To amend title 49, United States Code, to condition airport improvement program grants on certain assurances from airport owners and operators regarding television equipment in airport terminals.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
Committee on Transportation and InfrastructureAviationIntroducedJune 21st, 2019
- house Committees