Dozens Of Cities Sue FCC Over Cable Order

Cities from Los Angeles to Boston are fighting an FCC decision they say will cost them millions by letting cable TV providers such as Comcast Corp. partly pay them with services like free air time instead of money. At least 46 cities are asking federal appeals courts to undo an FCC order they argue will force them to raise taxes or cut spending on local media services, including channels that schools, governments, and the general public can use for programming.

FCC Orders Stations To Negotiate With AT&T

The FCC today ordered nine TV station groups linked to Sinclair Broadcast Group to return to the negotiating table with AT&T’s DirectTV after some consumers have been without access to 20 stations for five months.

THE PRICE POINT

The Price Point | Third Circuit Rules Against Newspaper Survival

Hank Price: “It is a tragedy that the newspaper-TV station crossownership ban, originally created not because of public outcry but for political reasons, is still with us, now sporting a small group of vocalists who think that any form of consolidation will destroy local news.”

FCC Challenges Court’s Dereg Smackdown

The FCC is seeking full-court review of a three-judge panel decision vacating its broadcast media ownership deregulation decision. The commission filed a petition for review Thursday (Nov. 7), arguing that the three-judge panel decision of appeals court imposed burdens beyond those allowed in the Administrative Procedures Act, second-guessed the FCC to the point that it undermined congressional intent, and breaks with higher-court and sister-court precedents.

FCC Approves T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

The FCC has issued the text of its decision approving the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. That came in the form of a Memorandum Opinion and Order, Declaratory Ruling, and Order of Proposed Modification. The FCC modified some build-out requirements on Dish spectrum as part of the spin-off of the merged company’s Boost Mobile prepaid operations to the satellite operator.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC To Hold Symposium On Radio And TV

The FCC announced on Friday that it will be hosting a symposium on the state of the broadcast industry on Nov. 21.  On that day, there will be a panel in the morning on the state of the radio industry and one in the afternoon on television.  The Public Notice released Friday lists a diverse group of panelists, but says little beyond the fact that the forum will be occurring.  What could be behind the commission’s decision to host this session?

STATION ADVISORY

Upcoming FCC Broadcast, Telecom Deadlines

Here’s what to expect from the commission in November through January.

The Fight Over Small-Town TV

TV station owners are taking advantage of FCC rules to quietly take over small-town airwaves, but cable and satellite companies are crying foul to regulators. Broadcasters aren’t supposed to own more than one top-rated outlet in any market, but they are snapping up multiple stations anyway in small markets like Parkersburg, W.Va., and Greenville, Miss., as the broadcast TV market is challenged by changes in technology and advertising.

FCC ‘Clarifies’ Political Public File Rules

The FCC last week released two decisions addressing complaints from public interest groups against several TV stations alleging that the stations had not sufficiently disclosed in their online public files sufficient information about political issue advertising.  These decisions will end up making life significantly more difficult for broadcasters running ads from non-candidate groups.

Gannett-New Media Merger In Jeopardy

The FCC held a meeting with private equity firm Apollo Global Management this week to ask questions about its agreement to finance New Media Investment’s planned purchase of Gannett Co., the publisher of USA Today, sources say. The FCC is concerned that the $1.8 billion loan Apollo is providing to finance the merger could violate its duopoly laws, sources say.

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.

FCC Approves T-Mobile-Sprint Merger

The FCC today voted along party lines to approve the $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, meaning the deal has received the full blessing of the U.S. government. But the merger is still facing a significant obstacle as more than a dozen state attorneys general forge ahead in their lawsuit to block the deal.

Broadcasters To FCC: Update Regs For 3.0

Commercial and public broadcasters are asking the FCC to relax its rules to allow them to deploy more transmitters at the edge of their service areas as they build out for ATSC 3.0.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Extends LPTV Reimbursement Deadline

Low-power TV, TV translator stations, and FM stations intending to request reimbursement for expenses incurred as a result of the repack of full-power and Class A television stations were required to file their Initial Reimbursement Form (Form 2100, Schedule 399) by Oct. 15. Now the FCC has announced that the deadline to file the reimbursement forms for LPTV and TV Translator stations is pushed back to Nov. 14 by 11:59 p.m.

Pai: Streaming Is Strong Competition To MVPDs

In what could signal a big change in regulatory approach, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has plans a vote on an item that would set the precedent that streaming services qualify as “effective competition” to MVPDs sufficient to trigger basic rate deregulation of those MVPDs.

Court Upholds FCC On Net Neutrality, But…

But the 200-page appeals court ruling says the FCC can’t stop states from setting their own regulations. Consumer advocates and other groups viewed the ruling as a victory for states and local governments seeking to put in their own net neutrality rules.

October Regulatory Dates For Broadcasters

October is one of the busiest months on the broadcaster’s regulatory calendar. Here’s a rundown of what’s up.

Swarztrauber Takes Over As Pai Policy Adviser

Evan Swaztrauber began his new job as policy adviser to FCC chair Ajit Pai Monday (Sept. 30) — the chairman had announced at the FCC’s public meeting he would be making the move. Swarztrauber replaces Nathan Learner, who has left the agency.

FCC Proposes Online Public Notice Requirements

It would replace the current newspaper publication requirement with a written public notice posted online on a publicly accessible website that includes a direct link to the broadcast application in question.

FCC Extends Deadline For Regulatory Fees

Broadcast and cable operators have a few more days to get those checks to the FCC. After only days earlier reminding regulated entities that they needed to get their regulatory fees in by the Sept. 24 deadline, the FCC Monday (Sept. 23) extended that due date to midnight Sept. 27.

Appeals Court Vacates FCC Ownership Dereg

The federal court in Philadelphia said the FCC, in eliminating the newspaper-broadcast crossownership rule and relaxing the local TV duopoly rule, failed to ascertain the impact of the action on station ownership by women and minorities. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blasted the ruling and the court, which has repeatedly blocked ownership dereg: “It’s become quite clear that there is no evidence or reasoning — newspapers going out of business, broadcast radio struggling, broadcast TV facing stiffer competition than ever — that will persuade them to change their minds.”

STATION ADVISORY

Reminder: FCC Rules Apply To Off-Year Elections

While most broadcast stations don’t think about the FCC’s political broadcasting rules in odd numbered years, they should — particularly in connection with state and local political offices. Whether the race is for governor or much more locally focused, like elections for state legislatures, school boards or town councils, stations need to be prepared.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Alters Ownership Report Filing Schedule

The FCC’s Media Bureau today announced changes to the filing window for submitting Biennial Ownership Reports for commercial and noncommercial stations.  The opening of the filing window will be delayed from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, and the window will now close on Jan. 31, 2020, rather than the previously-announced deadline of Dec. 1, 2019.

UPDATED

FCC Approves Nexstar-Tribune Merger

With its OK following that of the Department of Justice, the commission’s move means Nexstar can close the $6.4 billion deal, which it said it expects to do shortly.

NEWS ANALYSIS

Cable Clams Up On Its 3.0 Recalcitrance

In the six weeks since Charter Communications executives met with senior FCC staffers to explain their reluctance to carry ATSC 3.0 signals, a continuing flurry of discussions has simmered — usually couched in questions about why Charter picked this moment to voice its opposition to carrying the value-added broadcast signals.

NEWS ANALYSIS

EAS Fine Against CBS Raises 1st Amend. Debate

False EAS alerts have typically popped up in commercials as a way of getting jaded viewers’ and listeners’ attention, which makes them challenging to successfully defend. But what happens when the use of the alert tone is not in an ad, like in the case of its inclusion by CBS in an episode of Young Sheldon? The FCC is effectively claiming that CBS falsely yelled “fire” in a crowded theater, which is the well-established exception to First Amendment protections.  CBS, on the other hand, is countering that it only yelled “boogeyman,” and that any reasonable viewer isn’t going to panic, because the public knows the difference between real and fictional things.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Reminds Stations Of Sept. 23 EAS Deadline

The FCC is reminding all broadcasters and other EAS participants of the obligation to file their ETRS Form Three report by Sept. 23. That form provides details about a station’s participation in the Aug. 7 Nationwide EAS Test, including from where the station received the EAS alert (assuming that it did receive the alert) and any complications or issues that may have arisen in connection with the test.

FCC To Fine CBS $272,000 For EAS Tone In Show

The commission says the fine for an episode of Young Sheldon reinforces its rule that Emergency Alert System tones must only be used for real emergencies and authorized testing.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Releases Fact Sheets For Fee Filings

The FCC yesterday released several fact sheets detailing how the regulatory fees due to be paid by Sept. 24 of this year should be paid. For broadcasters, perhaps the most important is the Media Bureau Regulatory Fees Fact Sheet. This sheet sets out specific information about how to determine the amount of the fees to be paid by each broadcast station.

Pai Proposes More Broadcast Reg Whacking

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to “modernize” some more media ownership rules at its September meeting, according to Pai, who has periodically taken out the regulatory weed whacker he promise early open to use to clear out some bureaucratic underbrush. The commission is scheduled to issue a tentative agenda Sept. 5, three weeks before its scheduled public meeting, where the items will be outlined in greater detail.

Nexstar Pays $100K To Resolve FCC Investigation

The FCC has resolved its investigation into a couple of Nexstar stations that failed to comply with children’s TV reporting requirements, which follows its dismissal of a retrans complaint against the broadcaster that comes in the context of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s circulation of an item approving Nexstar’s merger with Tribune. The commission likes to resolve pending issues with a merger party that could impact its standing as a licensee before deciding whether to let it own more stations.

FCC Extends Phase 5 TV Repack Deadline

The FCC has extended phase 5 of its post-incentive auction repack because it includes some areas potentially in the path of Hurricane Dorian. Phase 5, which was to have concluded Sept. 6, includes stations in North and South Carolina.

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Final Fees Offer Some Relief To Broadcasters

The FCC has released its finalized schedule of annual Regulatory Fees for Fiscal Year 2019, and thanks to the collective efforts of all 50 state broadcaster associations and the National Association of Broadcasters, there is some good news for radio stations and satellite television stations.

STATION ADVISORY

2019 FCC Fees Due Sept. 30

The FCC on Tuesday released its Report and Order on regulatory fees. The order says that the fees will be due by Sept. 30.  The FCC should soon issue additional guidance about the exact filing dates and procedures.

FCC Dismisses Warren’s Attacks As ‘Hot Air’

The FCC dismissed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) criticism of the agency’s chairman as “hot air,” after the Democratic presidential candidate accused him of advancing the interests of the telecom industry. The pushback comes in response to an op-ed the senator published in The Washington Post on Tuesday arguing for renewed federal efforts to expand internet access to areas that lack it.

Jeffrey Prince Named FCC Chief Economist

The new appointee, currently is a professor of business economics and public policy at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, begins at the commission on Sept. 3.

LPTVs Wait For Repack Funds, Eye ATSC 3.0

Money is on the minds of America’s low-power TV station owners these days. With the FCC announcing last month that it is now taking applications for repack reimbursement funds from the TV Broadcasters TV Relocation fund, LPTVs that have paid heavily to switch frequencies under the FCC’s spectrum repack are anxiously awaiting the check in the mail.

FCC Still Weighing Nexstar-Tribune

While the Justice Department signed off on the deal last month with TV station spin-offs in 13 markets, the FCC has yet to complete its public interest review of the merger. Currently, the deal is on day 192 of the FCC’s informal 180-day shot clock. An FCC spokesperson had no comment on the timing of the FCC’s decision.

Retrofitting C-Band Downlinks: A Daunting Task

While the FCC could wave its wand and turn all C-band downlinks into just so much scrap metal, optimism runs high that the CBA’s proposal for reapportionment of the 500 MHz spectrum and band sharing will be the outcome—if 5G does have to be accommodated. However, that approach involves the addition of an LNB filter, and likely will require retuning receivers and moving dishes to different satellites.

FCC To Hold Repacking Reimbursement Webinar

Next week, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 11 a.m. ET, the FCC will hold a webinar to detail the process for seeking reimbursement for costs incurred because of the repacking of TV channels into a smaller part of the spectrum following the incentive auction.