Alysia Long – Cox Media Group
In this hyper-charged and fragmented world of media, Alysia Long has an up-close view of local broadcast stations standing out from the crowd in ways that she says most positively impact everyday lives. She considers the importance of local journalism and broadcasting as increasingly overlooked and aims to amplify Cox Media Group’s voice amongst the big media and tech platforms serving content from remote servers far from people’s front doors.
As senior vice president and associate general counsel for law and policy at Cox Media Group, Long is her company’s point person on a strategic set of initiatives to ensure local broadcasters can continue to do what they do best, which is to serve local communities. As an example, she highlights the recently launched Coalition for Local News, an advocacy group for more than 600 local television stations nationwide.
The group is pushing for legacy Federal Communications Commission regulations to be modernized for local TV stations in this era of streaming media. Their well-being is threatened, she says, by regulations that haven’t kept pace with the marketplace, where streaming services like Hulu and YouTube are bypassing direct negotiations with local broadcasters to distribute local news and entertainment programming that CMG and other broadcasters create and invest heavily in.
Streaming services now representing around one-third of the pay-TV market, their footprint only figures to grow. Long and her kindred advocates in the coalition are stepping up for local broadcasters’ place at the table.
“Investments in local news and communities are worth making and worth fighting for,” she says from her office at CMG’s flagship television station, WSB-TV in Atlanta, which has marked 75 years in TV, alongside its radio group marking 100 years in local broadcasting.
Local stations, after all, are where a community is most likely alerted of breaking news and emergencies. She emphasizes that the investments CMG and the industry make in investigative journalism also provide much-needed advocacy and protection for local consumers. And if a community isn’t getting this type of news from local TV stations, she reminds the options are limited.
When Long spoke with Vanguard, she proudly noted how broadcasts throughout New England were updating their residents on flash floods that had caused fatalities while washing away bridges and segments of roads. She noted the criticality of local radio stations in not only entertaining but keeping communities safe.
She spoke of the recent phenomenon of electric-vehicle manufacturers leaving AM radio out of their product designs, which sparked quick action by broadcasters to rally manufacturers and lawmakers to understand the loss of emergency alerts reaching drivers if this omission is not addressed. Ford Motors, for one, has changed course and opted to retain AM radio and there is bipartisan legislative support to incentivize other manufacturers to follow suit.
Beyond the legacy impact of broadcasting that endures today, Long touts the innovation of broadcasters in bringing NextGen television to market with new features that are designed for the ways new media is consumed. With this innovation, broadcasters are poised to enhance their offerings and the viewer experience while still delivering critical features like emergency news and weather alerts that other mediums do not. Long represents CMG on various industry initiatives advancing the future of television.
Her experience with new media and technology took shape during her tenure at Cox Enterprises, the former parent of Cox Media Group prior to its sale to Apollo Global Management in 2019. It was at Cox Communications, a company under the Cox Enterprises fold, where she honed her knowledge and skills for 18 years as the media and communications industry saw a convergence of internet and video and telecommunications. She had become quite involved with the regulatory and policy issues accompanying these developments.
While at Cox Enterprises, Long shifted to the role of lead operations and regulatory counsel for Cox Media Group, which positioned her to take—and expand—her portfolio to the new Cox Media Group under Apollo’s ownership. Long notes that it was a big leap to leave the fold of a 100-year-old family-owned company.
“I had a lot of growth opportunities over the years with Cox Enterprises,” she says.
And while the shift from family to private equity ownership would seem a stark contract, she emphasizes that the mission of CMG and the strength of its local TV and radio stations has remained steadfast.
“I knew that I could keep doing meaningful work with an impressive group of talent, and that is what sold me on making the move,” she says.
Long likens the early days following the carve-out to a start-up environment where she was an integral part of building anew a legal department and charting its course without the buffer or bureaucracy of operating as a subset of a larger corporate structure.
It was not the first time Long changed course to avail herself of new experiences—her early legal work had a healthcare focus.
“I knew nothing about communications law when I moved to the industry. I billed myself as number 1, a good lawyer; number 2, as having an eye for regulations and contracts; and number 3, thriving on variety,” she says. “And that’s what worked to help me pivot.”
A University of Virginia accounting/marketing major and Duke Law School graduate, she’s enjoying her role as a cog in media policy. And she’s pleased to have forged this path in her hometown of Atlanta, though the years away were personally and professionally productive. It was at UVA where she met her husband, Robert Long, who established a family law and litigation practice at his own firm in Atlanta.
Litigation, however, never appealed to this woman who says she’s no Perry Mason, but at least partly attributes her interest in law to the exposure from her then beau/now husband. The couple has two sons, one a Bowdoin College graduate and the other an Oberlin College and Conservatory undergrad, and they’ve quite the role models in their parents.
“Professionally, I want to keep growing,” Long says. “It’s not always about getting more. It’s also getting ‘different’ and positioning yourself for continual learning and growth.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2023 Edition here.
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