Pai To Hill: Repack Is About 66% Over

The FCC’s repack of 1,000 TV stations into smaller spectrum quarters is almost two-thirds of the way to completion, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told a Senate oversight hearing audience Thursday (Oct. 17), and has proven to be a smooth transition.

STATION ADVISORY

More Challenges For E-Cigarette Ads

Even though advertising for e-cigarettes is not currently illegal at the federal level, there are moves to change that position (including the announcement last month of an anticipated ban on flavored vaping products).

House Panel Seeks End To E-Cigarette Ads

A House of Representatives panel sent letters to four e-cigarette companies asking them to stop all print, broadcast and digital advertising of their products in the United States, the same day as market-leader Juul said it would pull its ads, the panel said on Thursday.

Newspaper Execs Lobby To Fight Big Tech

Executives from seven newspaper companies lobbied Capitol Hill this week to urge Congress to pass the “Journalism Competition and Preservation Act,” a bill that fights the dominance of tech companies like Google and Facebook in the digital content business.

NAB Launches 2019 Congressional PSAs

The public service program features 303 members of Congress and their family members.

RETRANS

Nexstar Stations Overstate Hill Blackout Letters

Retrans battles are known for their gamesmanship, but Nexstar’s characterization of some of the Hill pushback on the ongoing retrans impasse with AT&T’s DirecTV drew the ire of one local paper, some MVPD fans, and, ultimately, some corrections.

Congress Grills Big Tech On Competition, Money

A Tuesday afternoon panel of the House Judiciary Committee focused on whether it’s time for Congress to rein in these companies, which are among the largest on Earth by several measures. Central to that case is whether their business practices run afoul of century-old laws originally designed to combat railroad and oil monopolies.

Tech Titans Testify At House Hearing

The House Antitrust Subcommittee is holding the second of its two Big Tech hearings this week, hearing from the FAAG in FAANG, lacking only Netflix among the witness list and definitely meeting the criteria for the hearing’s title.

ATVA: Nexstar Blackout Argues For STELAR

The American Television Alliance (ATVA) is using the Nextar/DirecTV retrans impasse to pitch Congress on renewing STELAR, the satellite license law that also includes requiring the FCC to enforce good faith negotiations in retrans disputes.

Big Tech Execs Due On Capitol Hill Next Week

Executives from Amazon.com, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google will testify before a House of Representatives congressional committee next week in a hearing to discuss the tremendous market power wielded by online platforms.

RETRANS

More Legislators Call For Nexstar, AT&T Resolution

Legislators continued to turn up the heat in the ongoing retransmission consent battle between DirecTV and Nexstar Media Group, with representatives from seven states joining Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday in sending letters to DirecTV parent AT&T urging for an end to the blackout as it entered its fifth day.

House Approves Full Funding-Plus For Noncoms

The House has approved funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the independent agency that dispenses federal money for noncommercial media. The $495 million in funding, which was not only full funding but an additional $50 million, is for 2022. CPB is forward funded in an attempt to depoliticize the process.

Matsui Working On C-Band Compromise Bill

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, said Wednesday she is working on a bill, the WIN 5G Act, that would offer a compromise approach to the thorny issue of freeing up C-band spectrum for wireless broadband.

Pai Wants Easier Path To Change Rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put in a plug Wednesday for giving the FCC some fast track broadcast deregulatory authority. In a House Communications Subcommittee FCC oversight hearing, Pai said that the disconnect between a moving marketplace and the “stasis” of FCC rules was the fundamental issue the FCC had with its media ownership rules.

Hill Dems Seek Restart Of FCC Diversity Reporting

House Votes To Reinstate Net Neutrality

The Save the Internet Act passed the Democrat-controlled House 232-190 Wednesday, with only one Republican vote in favor. But top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that net neutrality is “dead on arrival in the Senate.”

House Legislators Agree: C-SPAN Is Indispensable

Democrats and Republicans may be divided over the Mueller report and health care and immigration and climate change and campaign finance and, well, you get the idea. But one thing they can agree on is that C-SPAN is something of a national treasure.

Senators Blast DirecTV For Underserving 12 DMAs

The lawmakers from Colorado and Wyoming say the satellite operator’s offering of distant signals from New York and Los Angeles in place of local affiliates in 12 small markets is “unacceptable” and “must end.”

 

Dems To Probe Trump/AT&T-TW Report

On a day defined by the launch of a new Democratic investigation into possible abuses of power by President Trump, The New Yorker magazine presented yet another line of potential inquiry, reporting that Trump pressured John Kelly and Gary Cohn to make sure that the Justice Department sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal. Now multiple Democratic lawmakers are vowing to, in the words of Sen. Chris Van Hollen, “get to the bottom of it.”

Former Rep. John Dingell Dies At 92

Former Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the longest-serving member of Congress who played a key role in many pieces of landmark legislation, has died. He was one of broadcasters’ most stalwart defenders in Congress. He pushed to ensure broadcasters were treated fairly in the first DTV transition in 2009 and what would be the second one — the TV station repack — following the incentive auction. NAB CEO Gordon Smith said: “Broadcasters were honored to call Chairman Dingell a friend, and we will never forget his tenacity, good humor and belief in the benefits of free and local radio and television.”

House Democrats Demand FCC Documents

House Democrats are asking the FCC for documentation about its operations as they prepare to challenge the agency with their newfound oversight powers.

Matsui Named Vice Chair Of Comm. Subcommittee

Rep. Doris Matsui of California has been named vice chair of the House Communications Subcommittee. The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). Matsui has been an active member of the subcommittee, particularly on high-tech issues like the Internet of Things and blockchain, and pushing for strong net neutrality rules.

Trump, Congress Leaders Agree To End Shutdown

Trump announced the agreement to break the 35-day impasse as intensifying delays at the nation’s airports and widespread disruptions brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff. The deal would open the government for three weeks while negotiations continue over the president’s demands for money to build his long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

H.R. 1 Boosts TV Campaign Ad Disclosures

Co-opting the “clean up Washington” mantra of the current Republican President and the “by the people, for the people” language of a former Republican President, House Democrats on Friday officially unveiled their first bill of the new session, the For the People Act (H.R. 1), which would, among many other things, boost campaign ad disclosures on TV and extend them to paid online ads.

Schumer, Hatch Offer Sports-Betting Bill

Congress is looking to regulate sports betting nationwide under a bill introduced Wednesday. In what looks like the first federal response to New Jersey’s victory in a Supreme Court case in May that paved the way for legalized sports betting nationwide, the bipartisan bill would require the Department of Justice to establish minimum standards for all states that legalize the activity.

NEWS ANALYSIS

New House Could Be Threat To Mega-Mergers

With the Democrats taking control of the House when the new session starts Jan. 3, lawmakers and media players are re-adjusting their strategies and preparing for a slew of new hearings and investigations. Democrats have already started to circle their wagons around Nexstar’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media.

Congress Wants Federal Sports Betting Oversight

Draft legislation that aims to provide federal oversight to sports betting surfaced out of retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch’s office this week. The 37-page untitled discussion draft, obtained by ESPN, is viewed as an initial step in what’s expected to be a long, tedious process that will play out as legal sportsbooks pop up in an increasing amount of states.

Senators Press FCC For White Space Action

A pair of Republican senators have asked the FCC to resolve interference issues with TV white spaces (TVWS) use by unlicensed devices, come up with final guidance, and allow for the expansion of TVWS use. They say the technology is key to closing the rural broadband divide because it is an affordable connectivity answer for rural and tribal communities.

Senators To Facebook: Fix Political Ad Tool

A recent Facebook initiative aimed at combating foreign interference in elections involves requiring political-ad purchasers to identify themselves in “paid for by” disclaimers. But Facebook’s system suffers from some “significant apparent loopholes,” including one that allows ad purchasers to lie about their identities, Senate Democrats Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) and Mark Warner (Virginia) say in a new letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Dems Want FCC To Investigate Fake Comments

A trio of Democratic senators is pressing the FCC’s inspector general to investigate the millions of fake comments filed during the net neutrality debate. In a letter addressed to FCC Inspector General David Hunt, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) urged him to investigate fraud in the FCC public comment process.

Indie Programmers To Hill: Retrans Limits Voices

Independent programmers that have long pushed Washington to take action to improve access to their programming and other programming not tied to big distributors or major studios, have told Congress that the retransmission consent regime is a big impediment to diversity of voices.

Music Modernization Bill Clears Hurdle

he Senate cleared a bill late Tuesday that creates a new independent entity that will license songs to companies that play music online. The nonprofit collective will then pay songwriters, including those who wrote pre-1970s classics before music copyrights protected their work.

NEWS ANALYSIS

What Was Learned From Dorsey, Sandberg

Inside Big Tech’s D.C. Survival Strategies

With new attacks by President Trump, high-stakes testimony next week on Capitol Hill, and a midterm election vulnerable to online manipulation, tech’s giants are bracing themselves for two months after Labor Day that could decide whether and how much the government regulates them.

Senate Panel To Hear From Twitter, Facebook

The Senate intelligence committee said on Wednesday it would hold a hearing next week to look at how social media companies are responding to foreign influence operations, with testimony expected from top executives of Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet.

Hill Dems Back FCC Challenge

A group of 103 members of Congress have filed an amicus brief in support of Mozilla et al.’s challenge to the FCC’s network neutrality reg rollback. Many of those are also opposing the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court because of his views on FCC net neutrality regulation and authority.

Senate Moves To Require Drug Prices In Ads

The Senate on Thursday passed a measure to provide funding to require drug advertisements to disclose the price of the drug after a last-minute push. The move marks a rare moment where Congress took some action aimed at high drug prices, a contentious issue that has been a recent target of Democrats and the Trump administration.

House Dems Press Pai For Cyberattack Answers

Democratic lawmakers are putting heat on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai over a recent inspector general report that found the agency falsely claimed it had suffered a cyberattack that briefly took down its electronic comment system amid the backlash over its repeal of net neutrality.

House Dems Want New FCC Sinclair Probe

In a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent Tuesday, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrats on the House committee overseeing the FCC, said that the commission should look into the possibility that Sinclair had conspired with Tribune Media, which it’s trying to acquire.

Facebook To Face Senate Intel Questions

The Senate Intelligence Committee announced Wednesday it will question executives from Facebook and other social media companies on Sept. 5 in the wake of Facebook’s revelation of a new disinformation campaign aimed at the midterm elections.