The FCC has officially imposed the maximum per-violation fine of $512,228 each for all but one of the stations it had identified in a September 2020 notice of apparent liability as violating the FCC’s requirement of good faith retransmission consent negotiations. The 18 stations had been the target of a complaint by AT&T and its DirecTV DBS service alleging they had unreasonably delayed those negotiations including failing to respond to AT&T proposals.
The FCC has taken a step toward potentially restoring the mandate that broadcasters file data on the diversity of their workforces and that the data be available to the public. Democrats in Congress, and at the FCC, have long called for a return to that data collection.
Few probably would have guessed that the industry would still be waiting around in late July for the Biden Administration to name a permanent FCC chair, but that’s where things stand. New Street Research public policy analyst Blair Levin recently said: “While interim Chair [Jessica] Rosenworcel continues to have significant Senate support, her inability to obtain the nomination after more than six months suggests to us that there is some internal White House opposition. But there is no clear front-runner for replacing her.”
Broadcasters this month pressed the FCC to change course and not force TV and radio stations to pay for a portion of the FCC broadband data collection, from which they said they derive no benefit. The National Association of Broadcasters, in meetings with the FCC’s Office of Managing Director, said that should only make regulated industries pay user fees on activities that have at least minimal relevance to that industry.
The broadcast network affiliates want the FCC to “clarify” that its new enhanced sponsorship ID rules for foreign-owned government-supplied programming does not apply to long-form advertising (infomercials). The FCC in April voted to boost broadcasters’ disclosure requirements for programming on airtime leased by a foreign entity. The move comes amidst heightened focus on disinformation campaigns and despite some pushback from broadcasters, who argue the FCC is adding regs to an already overregulated service.
Last week, it was announced that the FCC would be considering some changes to its political broadcasting rules at its monthly open meeting in August. In some quarters, that raised concern that significant changes were coming in time for the 2022 congressional elections. But, when the draft of the proposed changes was released, it turned out that the changes were instead very minor.
TVNewsCheck‘s Michael Depp and Harry Jessell discuss the uncertainty lingering at the FCC, where Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel may be facing contention for the permanent job and a fifth commissioner has yet to be appointed.
The head-scratching inside the Beltway continues as the wait for a fifth Democratic Federal Communications Commission member — and for whoever is to be named the agency’s permanent chair — continues. Initial delays were thought to involve a decision between acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel and current commissioner Geoffrey Starks. But the name of broadband backer and one-time Public Knowledge head Gigi Sohn has surfaced as a new possible alternative — and one for whom the buzz had been growing
The FCC has approved AT&T’s spin-off of its traditional video distribution business as it moves toward streaming (HBO Max) as its video play of choice, citing the parties’ undisputed claim that the New DirecTV company that will result would be stronger because it could focus on traditional video. The FCC will not require the New DirecTV to deliver local TV station signals to the 12 smallest markets, as the broadcast affiliate associations had asked. It also declined to apply any program carriage conditions on the deal.
There’s a welcome place for reasonable regulation of political ads, but the current rules are so cumbersome and fraught with traps that even the most minor mistakes invite ready fines and embarrassment. Hopefully, acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s forthcoming changes will address that, but there’s reason for skepticism.
Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel is going to propose some changes to the agency’s political programming rules, she signaled in a blog post Wednesday (July 14). She did not say what the changes will be, but she will need Republican buy-in. She likely has it because she has scheduled a vote on the item for the August meeting and would be unlikely to schedule a vote in a 2-2 commission on something that could not pass.
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel would not comment on the degree to which the president’s failure to name a third Democratic commissioner has prevented it from taking action on some big issues — like restoring network neutrality rules — but she suggested the agency has been hard at work on other things and was still supportive of making net neutrality rules the law of the land, however that is achieved.
The White House released the competition executive order signed by the President Friday afternoon (July 9) and it does a lot of encouraging of the FCC, an independent agency, to take a number of regulatory actions including restoring net neutrality rules. Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel was at the signing ceremony, but she will need a third Democratic commissioner if she plans to follow the president’s lead. (President Biden cannot order any particular action by an independent agency, but he basically sent the signal he was looking for cooperation.)
The American Television Alliance said the FCC was right to propose fining Gray Television a half-million dollars for violating, as the FCC alleged, the commission’s local ownership rules. The commission, for the first time, has proposed fining an affiliation purchase for resulting in what it said was a violation of its prohibition on owning two of the top-four rated TV stations in a market.
In a meeting with a top adviser to acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel last week, microphone maker Shure urged the FCC to act on its petition to reopen the FCC’s vacant channel proceeding, issue a further notice of proposed rulemaking to update the record, and then designate a channel for mics in each market to “ameliorate the significant loss of UHF spectrum wireless microphones have experienced as a result of the broadcast incentive auction.”
In a first for an acquisition of a network affiliation, the FCC says Gray Television has “willfully and repeatedly” violated the commission’s prohibition on owning two of the top-four rated full-power TV stations in a market. The FCC has proposed a half-million-dollar fine. The commission said that the proposed fine stemmed from its acquisition of the CBS affiliation of KTVA — which went dark — when it already owned NBC affiliate KTUU, both in Anchorage, Alaska.
Comcast wants the FCC to issue a ruling that Nexstar should be attributed ownership of WPIX New York , which would make it in violation of the commission’s 39% cap on broadcast national audience reach. The cable operator claims Nexstar’s divestiture of the station to meet FCC requirements in its acquisition of Tribune was a “sham.”
A number of unions have called on President Biden to name acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel to the permanent position, saying the commission is understaffed and has a lot of work to do that needs a full commission and a full-time chair. That came in a letter to the president citing her accomplishments and suggesting that there should be no further delay in naming a chair — and a third Democratic commissioner — given the big issues on the FCC’s plate.
In A letter, first shared with The Associated Press, Democratic Reps. Jamaal Bowman of New York, Yvette Clarke of New York, and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan along with Media 2070 said the FCC should conduct an assessment to “address and redress” the harm the agency’s policies and programs have caused Black and brown communities and identify the “affirmative steps the agency commits to taking to break down barriers to just media and telecommunication practices.”
The National Association of Broadcasters said a recent appeals court decision has established the precedent for commission authority to levy regulatory fees on Big Tech. NAB has been pushing the FCC to start charging Big Tech and other unlicensed spectrum users such a fee, as it does broadcasters and other FCC licensees and said it is now clear the FCC has the authority to make it happen.
President Joe Biden’s ambitious goals for broadband, including expanding access throughout the country, may remain unmet until he nominates a fifth commissioner to the FCC. That’s according to the ACLU, Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press, Mozilla and dozens of other advocacy organizations.
There is a major difference of opinion between the National Association of Broadcasters and the network affiliate broadcaster associations over whether the FCC should require streaming services to deliver emergency alerts. NAB says no, while network affiliates say yes, definitely. All they need to do is carry local TV station signals on their streaming services, which they are pushing the FCC to mandate.
On Friday, the FCC said it will conduct a nationwide test of the EAS and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on Aug. 11 at 2:20 p.m. EDT, with a backup date of Aug. 25 at 2:20 p.m. EDT. FEMA will initiate the WEA portion of the nationwide test using the State/Local WEA Test category. Only those subscribers who have opted in to receive WEA test messages will receive the test message. Participating CMS providers are required to transmit the State/Local Test message and enable subscribers to opt in to receive it. FEMA will transmit the alert in both English and Spanish. All EAS participants are required to participate in this nationwide EAS test.
The National Association of Broadcasters is expressing concern about the changes the FCC is proposing to make in calculating FY 2021 regulatory fees — objecting to both the increased amounts and proposed calculation methods. For the third consecutive year, the commission plans to increase fees to “unfair, unsustainable levels,” the NAB said in a filing with the commission.
President Biden still hasn’t named permanent leaders at the key agencies overseeing the tech and telecom industries, giving him a late start on confronting powerful U.S. companies. If Biden doesn’t move quickly, there won’t be enough time left for his administration to take on big targets and tackle thorny policy problems.
Gray Television is pushing the FCC to classify over-the-top video providers as MVPDs so they will have to negotiate carriage with stations. That is according to a presentation to FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington and his media adviser, Adam Cassady, by Gray counsel and former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell.
Microsoft has asked the FCC to reverse its decision, made under then-chairman Ajit Pai, to allow broadcaster signals from distributed transmission systems to go “significantly” beyond a station’s current authorized service area as those broadcasters roll out their NextGen TV broadcast transmission standard. It claims the “fatally unclear” decision was based on faulty assertions.
Broadcasters are telling the FCC that over-the-top video providers can’t be relied on to relay emergency alerts, saying that, at least currently, the technological challenges make it “extremely burdensome, and likely infeasible, to update the EAS system to enable alerts to consumers provided through the internet, including through streaming devices.”
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel wants broadcasters to promote their over-the-top (broadband) competition, but in a good cause. In an OTT video speech to the National Association of Broadcasters virtual State Leadership Conference this week, Rosenworcel praised broadcasters as vital first informers, including providing key help for small businesses, encouraging vaccinations, and other pandemic-related help, then hit them up for a public interest favor.
The National Association of Broadcasters took the gloves off in a recent meeting with FCC engineering staffers over TV white spaces — the use of broadcast spectrum for unlicensed uses like wireless broadband — calling it a failing experiment.
The FCC has unanimously approved the framework for the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund for remote learning service and devices. Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel last week circulated the draft rules to the other commissioners Those rules do not allow for using the money to fund either the presumably immobile desktop computers or for hyper-mobile smart phones.
Aug. 11 will be the date of the first national EAS test since before the pandemic began. Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency officially informed the FCC on May 4, that it plans its sixth national EAS test on that day. They also plan to conduct a nationwide Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test concurrently.
Public broadcasters are welcoming the FCC’s decision to rein in new rules governing foreign sponsorship of radio and TV broadcasts, which system leaders feared could be too burdensome for producers and stations. In a Report and Order released April 22, the FCC specified that its requirements for identifying program sponsorship by foreign governments will apply only to broadcasters that lease airtime to governmental entities. That largely excludes public broadcasters.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney filed the complaint against the Sinclair Fox affiliate, alleging a pattern of coverage of the state’s attorney’s office that is “blatantly slanted, dishonest, misleading, racist, and extremely dangerous.” It also claims the station “appears to be an intentional crusade” against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby (above), “which given today’s politically charged and divisive environment, is extremely dangerous.” Sinclair defended WBFF’s reporting in a statement.