Florida Rep. Writes Pai Over Gray-Frontier Retrans Blackout

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) has written FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to stick up for Gray Television’s WWSB Sarasota, Fla., in a retrans fight with Frontier Cable. Citing a failure to reach a retrans agreement with Frontier, WWSB used some in-house news reporting last week to relay that it had been pulled from the cable system Friday (Dec. 18) after WWSB offered to keep the signal on at current terms while they continued to negotiate.

Google, Facebook Agreed To Team Up Against Possible Antitrust Action, Draft Lawsuit Says

Facebook and Google agreed to “cooperate and assist one another” if they ever faced an investigation into their pact to work together in online advertising, according to an unredacted version of a lawsuit filed by 10 states against Google last week.

VOA Leader Continues To Shake Up Agency

The Trump appointee who oversees Voice of America and other federal broadcasting operations continued an ongoing purge of top leadership by naming two conservative allies to run two of the most prominent networks. The new hirings by Michael Pack, the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, may turn out to be short-lived and largely symbolic. President-elect Joe Biden’s aides have indicated Biden intends to fire Pack when he assumes office on Jan. 20, although it’s not clear how much authority Biden would have to undo Pack’s personnel decisions.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Funding Bills Pass Congress

The House and Senate both voted late Monday on a paired-up package of a COVID-19 relief bill and an omnibus government spending bill loaded with billions of dollars for broadband, new small business loan aid for broadcasters and a provision making the theft of video streams a felony for the first time.

Armed Protesters Break Into Oregon Capitol

According to the Oregon State Police and multiple media reports, a group of armed protesters broke windows and stormed the capitol while the state legislature was in session on Monday. Those assembled also attacked a photographer for the Salem Statesman General. One is heard on video telling the photographer, “I’m gonna f*ck you up,” as the journalist leaves.

Newsmax Issues On-Air Clarification Concerning Its Coverage Of Smartmatic, Dominion

NAB Applauds Inclusion Of More Broadcasters In COVID-19 Aid

The National Association of Broadcasters is applauding the inclusion of new help for TV stations in the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 that appears headed for passage and to the president’s desk for a signature.

Fox News Runs Fact Check In Response To Defamation Charges By Voting Software Firm

The Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media

Voting machine companies, including Antonio Mugica’s Smartmatic, threaten defamation lawsuits against Fox, Newsmax and OAN.

Google Trial Judge Suggests 2023 Trial Date

The judge hearing the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust case against Alphabet Inc.’s Google suggested a trial date of Sept. 12, 2023, on Friday. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta suggested the date during a status conference, and counsel for the two sides did not object. Mehta noted that the two sides appeared to expect that discovery would be completed in March 2022, with other pretrial matters not addressed until early 2023.

New Bill Makes Illegal Streaming A Felony

A long-time effort to boost penalties for pirated video streams may have finally met its moment, that being the combination of the explosion of streaming content and over-the-top distribution channels and a COVID-19-sequestered populace for whom online video has become an entertainment lifeline. Free State Foundation’s Seth Cooper, in a blog post late Thursday pointed out that the bipartisan Protecting Lawful Streaming Act, which would up those penalties, was at press time still attached to an omnibus spending bill that needs to pass to prevent a government shutdown.

Simington Announces FCC Presence Via Twitter

New FCC commissioner Nathan Simington announced is presence, at least virtual presence, at the FCC Wednesday with the first tweet from is @SimingtonFCC twitter account. “Good morning to all,” he tweeted. “I am very happy to be online as a member of @FCC. I look forward to working with @AjitPaiFCC, @BrendanCarrFCC, @GeoffreyStarks, @JRosenworcel, and the incredible FCC staff to oversee and advance telecommunications in the public interest.”

Google Hit With Another Antitrust Lawsuit

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general filed another antitrust lawsuit against Google on Thursday focused on its online search market power, adding to the growing legal battles facing the tech giant. The lawsuit — filed by 35 states and Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico — alleges Google illegally maintains monopoly power over search engines and search advertising markets through a series of anticompetitive contracts and conduct.

Facebook Declares War On Apple

The social media company joins the antitrust effort against the iPhone maker, claiming that changes to the iOS that block targeted advertising that Facebook specializes in is an assault on small businesses.

10 States Sue Google Over Ad Sales

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the suit, which was filed in a federal court in Texas, saying Google is using its “monopolistic power” to control pricing of online advertisements, fixing the market in its favor and eliminating competition.

Pai Urges Media Ownership Reforms

In what is likely to be one of his last major speeches as FCC chairman, Ajit Pai used a good portion of his time speaking virtually with the Media Institute on Tuesday, Dec. 15, about the continued fight over new media ownership rules.

Lindsey Graham Introduces Sec. 230-Killing Bill

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has introduced a bill that would sunset social media networks’ Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability for third-party content moderation. The sunset would not come until Jan. 1, 2023, so the bill is more like a spur to some kind of reform to the section between now and then.

Nathan Simington Sworn In As FCC Commissioner

Nathan Simington is officially an FCC commissioner. Following his nomination by the Senate last week, Simington was sworn in on Dec. 14 by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

NC Judge Isn’t Letting Journalists Into Courtroom

Judge Fred Wilkins has given no reason for the order in a county wracked by racial justice protests. That’s causing concern for transparency advocates.

Tech Giants Could Face Huge Fines In UK

Technology giants, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, could face fines of billions of pounds if they fail to remove and limit the spread of harmful online content under U.K. government proposals unveiled on Tuesday. The government of Boris Johnson announced details of its proposed Online Harms Bill, first set in motion by then-Prime Minister Theresa May in the spring of 2019, which aims to tackle child abuse and sexual abuse imagery, terrorist materials, misinformation, and other digital content.

Fuse Media: AT&T Discriminated Against It

Fuse Media has filed a complaint with the FCC charging that AT&T and its DirecTV unit are illegally discriminating against it in carriage negotiations and that AT&T’s behavior could drive Fuse into bankruptcy.

FTC Opens Privacy Study Into Internet Platforms

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday voted to issue orders to nine major internet platforms requiring information about how they handle data for a new study. The orders, which do not implicate any legal wrongdoing, were sent to Amazon, ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok), Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snap, Twitter, WhatsApp and Youtube. The agency is requesting information about how the platforms collect, use, track or estimate personal and demographic information.

Cable Channels Seek Exemptions From FCC Audio Description Rule

Fox News Channel and MSNBC have asked that the FCC exempt them from the list of top five non-broadcast networks. That is because that exempts them from the commission’s audio description (formerly “video description) rule, which applies to cable and satellite operators carrying the top five cable channels.

COMMENTARY BY MARGARET SULLIVAN

The Voice Of America Is Worth Saving

Margaret Sullivan: The news organization has been under siege by CEO Michael Pack, who claims to be rooting out bias. Will repairing VOA and its sibling organizations really be a top priority for the Biden administration? Given the range of problems Biden is inheriting, that’s hard to imagine. And the broken pieces won’t be so easy to put back together, given everything that’s gone on.

Senate Rebuffs Trump On Section 230 Repeal

Rejecting a demand by President Trump, the Senate on Friday passed a defense-spending bill that doesn’t include a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The House voted in favor of a similar defense-spending bill earlier in the week. Both chambers passed the bills with veto-proof majorities.

Dee Dee Myers To Be Newsom Economic Adviser

Dee Dee Myers, the first female White House press secretary in history and recently a top executive for Warner Bros., will become the chief economic and business adviser for California Gov. Gavin Newsom as he grapples with a pandemic-stricken economy.

FCC Doubles Down On OTT As Cable Competitor

The FCC has granted Cox and Comcast petitions for “effective competition” determinations in a number of Massachusetts counties, citing over-the-top service AT&T Now as the effective competitor.

FTC In Cash Crunch As It Sets To Battle Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission has frozen pay and hiring, explored ways of shrinking its staff, and may need to bring fewer expensive cases, its executive director says in internal emails.

CBS, WFOR Hit With Discrimination Lawsuit

A federal magistrate judge in Miami has given the green light for a class-action labor law and sex and age discrimination lawsuit to go forward against CBS Broadcasting. The ruling could have nationwide impact on CBS’s 29 owned-and-operated television stations.

Michael O’Rielly Exits The FCC

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has apparently made his official exit from the commission after seven years. O’Rielly’s FCC Twitter account was no longer active Thursday night and stakeholders were weighing in following his final meeting. That came Thursday (Dec. 10) following the FCC’s December meeting — which featured praise from his colleagues and FCC staffers — and the confirmation earlier this week of his successor, Nathan Simington.