The NAB has issued a statement applauding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s decision to vacate the FCC’s recent foreign sponsorship identification rules that went into effect in March. The court accepted the NAB’s argument that federal law authorizes the commission to require stations to obtain sponsorship identification information only from their own employees and from program sponsors and that stations should not be required to investigate additional sources.
Noncommercial TV station and network representatives said they are working hard to move to the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast transmission standard and its opportunities for enhanced emergency alerts, interactive educational programming and more, but that it is a challenging change and they can’t predict when a nationwide rollout will be accomplished.
The FCC’s Media Bureau again has reached out to the NewsGuild-CWA and The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (also CWA) to talk about the latter’s problems with the Tegna-Standard General merger. That is according to an ex parte accounting of an Aug. 8 phone call between the guild’s counsel, Andrew Schwartzman and Media Burea Deputy Chief Sarah Whitesell.
Supporters of FCC nominee Gigi Sohn are dismissing a call over the weekend by advocacy group ALLvanza for President Joe Biden to drop Sohn’s nomination in favor of a Hispanic candidate.
Opponents of the $8.6 billion Standard General-Tegna deal met with top FCC officials this week to talk about the former’s issues with the deal, particularly the documents those opponents say the merging parties should be producing. The FCC apparently asked for the meeting.
Only hours before the Senate Commerce Committee’s scheduled hearing on past spectrum disputes between the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the FCC and NTIA announced a new memorandum of understanding on coordinating their spectrum oversight, including regular formal interagency spectrum planning meetings.
Common Cause, news and broadcast unions and UCC Media Justice, Which petitioned the FCC to deny the Standard General-Tegna merger, told the FCC Tuesday (Aug. 2) just what it thought of the those merging parties’ defense of the deal, including that the petitioners had no legal right to challenge it. Standard General and Tegna are technically the merging parties, but Apollo Global Management, which controls Cox Media Group, is providing financing and getting some TV stations in an associated swap to keep the merged company within FCC’s local ownership rules. In fact, in its comments, Common Cause identified the deal as the “Proposed Apollo Global Management-Standard General-Tegna Merger.”
Dish wants to deploy 5G wireless services in the 12 GHz spectrum band. DirecTV thinks that’s going to present serious interference issues with its satellite TV service.
The Biden administration’s controversial choice of Gigi Sohn to fill an open seat on the FCC has been in Senate confirmation limbo for months.In recent weeks, at the urging of progressive advocates of Sohn, the White House has been discussing possibly pushing the vote until after the midterms, which might give the Dems cover to vote for her confirmation in a lame duck session. But amid that discussion, the White House is also reaching out to other candidates as part of an early-stage vetting process if the administration decides to pull the plug on Sohn, according to one person with direct knowledge of the matter.
NAB tells the FCC that the ch. 6 spectrum offers “a critical transition path for television broadcasters as they migrate to ATSC 3.0.”
Democratic lawmakers’ inability to secure a majority at the FCC has stymied plans for the agency to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules. Amid the impasse, lawmakers are renewing efforts to take the issue into their own hands with a sweeping new bill, according to a copy. Led by Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the Net Neutrality and Broadband Justice Act would reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service and open companies like AT&T and Verizon up to stricter oversight by the FCC.
Broadcasters are praising the House of Representatives for telling the FCC to “Keep off the grass”… advertising, that is. The House Wednesday (July 20) passed the 2023 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which prevents the FCC from taking any actions against broadcasters who air cannabis advertising if it is not against the law in the state or jurisdiction in which the station is licensed. Broadcasters have been looking for such protections, arguing that without them they cannot air cannabis ads even where the product is legal, which is in most states.
Standard General (SGCI) has told the FCC that the two-week comment extension it has granted on the proposed Standard General-Tegna merger could cost the company millions of dollars. SGCI, in opposing a comment extension the FCC ultimately granted, told the FCC that the way the deal is structured the per-share price SGCI has to pay escalates based on the closing date.
Taking a couple of pages from the Biden Administration’s parameters for some $65 billion in broadband deployment subsidies, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed upping the FCC’s minimum definition of high-speed broadband availability and making “affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access” part of that definition. Rosenworcel put that high-speed stake in the ground Friday, circulating a notice of inquiry launching its annual state of broadband review.
The GOP commissioner says if deep ties to single-source data are an impediment, they should be severed.
The FCC has agreed to give key communications unions and advocacy groups a two-week extension on the deadline for comment on the proposed merger of Standard General and Tegna. The NewsGuild-CWA, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA, Common Cause and United Church of Christ, OC, had sought the extension from the current deadline of Aug. 1.
Last month, the Biden administration passed a regrettable milestone: 500 days without seating a fully functional FCC. The president’s nominee to fill the fifth and final FCC commissioner’s spot, longtime public-interest advocate and former FCC adviser Gigi Sohn, has been in limbo awaiting Senate confirmation — leaving the agency without the vote it needs to break partisan deadlocks. The power to return the FCC to full strength rests with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but so far he’s refused to use it.
Attorneys for Standard General and Tegna have told the FCC that the petitions to deny their $5 billion-plus merger/station spinoff are both legally irrelevant and factually incorrect and should be rejected so the deal can go through. The FCC has to sign off on the transfer of any station licenses. That is according to a copy of the merging parties’ consolidated oppositions to those petitions and comments on the deal.
The National Association of Broadcasters said the FCC should start imposing regulatory fees on businesses that benefit indirectly from its activities, particularly internet service providers — regulation of which is taking up a lot of the agency’s resources. The FCC supports itself entirely from fees levied on its licensees, including broadcasters, cable providers and satellite services. The NAB, whose constituency includes owners of broadcast TV stations, has been telling the FCC — and anyone else within earshot — that it’s time for that to change.
Responding to FCC proposals to increase regulatory fees on broadcasters, the NAB has filed new comments criticizing the FCC’s proposed fees as “unfairly, unlawfully, and disproportionately burdening broadcasters.” The NAB also complained that the FCC is proposing to “raise broadcasters’ fees by a staggering 13%, despite the commission’s budget increasing by 2.1%,” a fee increase that is more than six times the magnitude of the commission’s budget increase.
Smaller cable operators have a big issue with today’s communications marketplace, telling the FCC that while fixed broadband competition is thriving, the retransmission consent video marketplace is broken. ACAC said the retrans fees broadcasters charge have gone through the roof, and have come with requirements that multichannel video programming distributors carry lower-rated channels and multicast signals if they want to carry the higher value primary signals.
For several years now cable operators have been arguing that the FCC needs to recognize the shift in children’s video consumption from “‘traditional linear television’ to unregulated online programming,” and deregulate accordingly. The 1990 Children’s Television Act set limits on ads in children’s programming and the FCC in 2004 limited the display of website addresses during children’s programming. NCTA told the FCC this week, as it did back in 2018, that it was time to eliminate those restrictions.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr says Apple and Google need to remove TikTok from their respective app stores, citing in a tweet “its pattern of surreptitious data practices.” Specifically, Carr was referencing a BuzzFeed News report that officials of TikTok’s Bytedance parent in China had repeatedly been able to access sensitive data of Americans after they downloaded the app from their stores.
It’s not looking good for Gigi Sohn’s nomination to fill the third Democratic seat on the FCC, one that’s extremely long-vacant — for well over a year — and would give the Biden FCC the majority it needs to restore network-neutrality rules or do other things Republicans won’t sign off on. The legislative days are dwindling down to a precious few. There are only about four weeks left on the Senate legislative calendar before the August recess, after which lawmakers will be focused on getting themselves re-elected in the midterms.
Broadcasters are applauding a move by Congress that would effectively provide a federal shield for TV and radio stations from any FCC retaliation airing cannabis ads. By a vote of 31 to 22 the House Appropriations Committee last Friday (June 24) approved the fiscal year 2023 Financial Services and General Government bill. The bill includes funding for the FCC, but only so long as none of it is used to prevent local broadcasters from airing cannabis ads in states where it is legal or punishing them for doing so.
FCC nominee Gigi Sohn has faced a mix of poor timing, bad luck and opposition from some lawmakers, making her confirmation at once more urgent but also less likely with each passing day.
Stagnant regulations and a constricting economy may force the number of TV stations producing news to narrow. Ironically, that could also lead to an increase — and improvement — of news.
The FCC released the data as it asked for public comments on the NextGen TV transition and the sunsetting of two 3.0 rules.
Station owner Graham Media has joined the opposition to Standard General’s acquisition of Tegna, filing a petition against the deal with the FCC on Wednesday that focuses on the effect the transaction would have on the Jacksonville, Fla., TV market.
The FCC is gearing up to find another way to determine a TV station’s local market for must-carry and other purposes. The move comes after decades of using Nielsen’s TV Station Index directory as its local market regulatory bible of sorts. That is because Nielsen has phased out the report, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel pointed out in outlining the agenda for the commission’s July public meeting.
The NewsGuild-CWA and and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET)-CWA filed a petition to dismiss or deny the deal with the FCC on Wednesday (June 22), the deadline for such filings. They say the deal, which was approved by Tegna shareholders in May, and interrelated transactions — what they labeled an “unprecedented array of sequenced transactions and swaps” — are actually an attempt to “game the commission’s ownership and retransmission consent rules in ways that contravene the commission’s public interest standard.”
Broadcasters and cable operators continue to spar over how much flexibility TV stations should have in transmitting their signals in the transition to the new ATSC 3.0 standard, specifically broadcasters’ ability to have another station transmit its digital subchannels. The idea is to ease the transition from ATSC 1.0 to the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard, also known as NextGen TV, which is not backward compatible.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee is looking to advance more than half a dozen communications/tech-related bills. Importantly, that includes the Extending America’s Spectrum Auction Leadership Act of 2022, which extends the FCC’s authority to auction spectrum to March 21, 2024. That authority expires Sept. 30 of this year unless it is reauthorized.
Cable operators said complaints from broadcasters about opening up the 6 GHz spectrum band for WiFi are “unfounded … untimely, unsubstantiated and irrelevant.” NCTA–The Internet & Television Association made that argument in comments to the FCC on June 10 regarding unlicensed use of that band, comments prompted by a court remand of one part of the FCC’s unanimous April 2020 decision to allow the entire 1,200 Megahertz of the 6-GHz band to be shared with unlicensed WiFi.
The commission also said it plans to allow the press and public into its July monthly meeting, also a first since the pandemic forced those meetings to be held virtually.
The FCC is asking more questions about private equity company Standard General’s planned purchase of Tegna and take it private. Tegna’s shareholders recently voted to approve the acquisition and the deal is still expected to close on schedule sometime in the second half of this year. But the transaction must still get regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. Among its new questions, the FCC is asking how Standard General would negotiate retransmission agreements with cable providers for rights to carry TV station signals. It also asked about possible layoffs. And it asked for a detailed explanation with supporting data describing how the transaction would serve the public interest.
Congress hasn’t budged on President Biden’s pick for a key tie-breaking FCC seat as the clock ticks down on the chance for a vote. Why it matters: Without confirmation of Biden’s nominee, Gigi Sohn, the communications regulator will remain deadlocked — hobbling efforts to enact the administration’s agenda of expanding broadband access and promoting digital equity. If Sohn, a lawyer and co-founder of the tech and telecom advocacy group Public Knowledge, doesn’t win a vote before summer recess, Democrats could lose their chance to fill the seat should Republicans take control of Congress in November.