HHS directed to look at local media for advertising buys

Dec 1, 2023

The House Appropriations Committee is poised to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to direct more of the agency’s advertising dollar toward local media, including nondaily newspapers, TV and radio when public–health campaigns are set up.

In a report accompanying the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriation for HHS, the Committee says, “The Committee recognizes the critical role local media plays in delivering lifesaving public health messages to small or rural communities.” It asks the HHS Secretary to provide a report on its efforts within 180 days of the appropriations passage.

The report closely mirrors similar direction from the Senate Appropriations Committee, which would allow only 90 days for the report.

Reports accompany major legislative enactments, explaining the intentions of Congress and interpreting the meaning of language in the statutes. While report language is not binding on the agencies, it is generally considered a strong signal that Congress is paying attention to certain activities and might push harder for action in the future if the agency does not respond.

Congress has not yet completed action on appropriations for HHS. A continuing resolution is keeping the government open while Congress completes work on appropriations bills. The advertising report language will not be final until the appropriation is completed.

NNA Chair John Galer, publisher of the Journal-News, Hillsboro, Illinois, said the strong direction from the House was a major step for NNA’s federal advertising campaign.

“We are making steady progress toward our goal of redirecting federal advertising dollars to local newspapers where they will do the most good,” Galer said. “NNA began this work several years ago but intensified it when we noticed that HHS’ vaccine and coronavirus messaging was not reaching rural audiences through local newspapers. These are costly campaigns for NNA, as we have to drive our own message through multiple layers of the federal government. But this fall, we see solid progress. We intend, with the support of our members, to continue this work.”

Galer urged interested newspaper executives to join NNA’s Congressional Action Team to assist in the effort.