Broadcasters are telling the FCC it should confine its white spaces item to the narrow changes agreed to by the National Association of Broadcasters and Microsoft and not range into other, murkier areas where Loch Ness monsters and Sasquatches lurk to muck up the compromise. That came in reply comments to the regulator’s proposal to make those changes. Other commenters wanted it to make some more adjustments.
He rails against the “far left’s” hoaxes. He says the World Health Organization has been “beclowned” over its response to the coronavirus. And he describes a “secret and partisan surveillance machine” run by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff. Those aren’t President Donald Trump’s words. They came from Brendan Carr, the junior Republican on the FCC, who is embracing a flavor of distinctly Trumpian rhetoric that could help him leapfrog his way to the chairmanship of the five-member regulatory agency.
FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks has weighed in on the current protests in response to the death of George Floyd in policy custody, signaling that increasing media diversity is one of the necessary responses to systemic racial inequality.
June is a busy month with important obligations for many stations. June brings the start of summer and the start of the license renewal cycle for television stations. Also, the FCC will hold its Open Meeting on June 9 and there is one item in particular that will interest TV stations that have adopted or plan to adopt the ATSC 3.0 standard. And there’s more.
The president today signed an executive order targeting Twitter and other social media. It comprises several directives, including one calling on the FCC to establish rules that would limit how far social media can go in tagging and censoring user content before risking the immunity they now have from libel and other civil actions arising from user content. Above, the president holds up a copy of the New York Post before signing the order.
In recent weeks, with so many government officials looking to get messages out about the coronavirus pandemic, questions arise about what to do when political candidates appear on public service-type announcements — either free PSAs provided by the station or paid spots purchased by some governmental entity. While such announcements can be run by stations, if a legally qualified candidate personally appears in the spot (their recognizable voice in a radio ad or their voice or picture in a TV ad), stations need to note the advertising purchase in their FCC Online Public Inspection File, as these spots constitute a “use” by a candidate, and they can also give rise to equal opportunities by opposing candidates.
“The FCC’s anachronistic ownership rules place local broadcasters at a decided disadvantage against other competitors in the complex, fast-evolving, highly competitive video marketplace,” the Big 4 affiliate groups told the Supreme Court.
In April, the FCC proposed to expand the video description requirements to network-affiliated stations in television markets 61 through 100 starting Jan. 1, 2021, followed by an additional 10 TV markets each year for the next four years. This proposal was just published in the Federal Register, setting a deadline for the filing of comments of June 22, 2020, with reply comments due by July 6.
Democratic FCC Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Jessica Rosenworcel condemn the $48 million settlement, saying the agency’s Republican majority ignored the FCC’s own rules and bent the facts to assist Sinclair “with sweeping its past digressions under the rug.”
Gray Television has filed an amicus brief at the Supreme Court backing the FCC’s appeal of a federal court’s smackdown of its broadcast deregulation decision. Gray told the court it was imperative that it hear the FCC appeal, reverse the Third Circuit, and allow the FCC’s “media modernization” to proceed.
FCC watchers have been itching to get a look at the consent decree between Sinclair and the FCC resolving multiple investigations, but will have to wait a few days more, according to an FCC spokesperson, who said the FCC is waiting for commissioners to finish their statements before releasing it.
The FCC is proposing to help promote broadcasting as a new competitive broadband pipe by making it clear that legacy broadcast TV ownership regulations do not apply to broadcast-delivered internet services like over-the-top video and data. That is according to FCC commissioner Brendan Carr, who has been working on a draft declaratory ruling and notice of proposed rulemaking he says the FCC plans to vote on at its June public meeting.
Broadcasters have advised the FCC not to finalize its cost catalog for reimbursable C-Band moving expenses until broadcasters have vetted satellite operator transition plans and to be prepared for COVID-19-related boosts in those expenses.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told a virtual NAB Show audience Wednesday that their legacy public service commitment is “showing up in spades” during the pandemic. Fresh from the FCC’s May 13 public meeting, Pai was able to appear at the NAB Show Express virtual convention to be interviewed by NAB President Gordon Smith only a couple of hours later.
The FCC is not suspending its regulatory fee increase on broadcasters during the pandemic, as some broadcasters had asked. The commission today voted to propose collecting $339 million in regulatory fees for 2020. That includes the fee increase for broadcasters continuing to increase the fee DBS operators pay to get it closer to that paid by cable MVPDs.
The FCC voted today to allow broadcasters to substitute online disclosures of certain FCC applications — rather than having to make them on-air, in newspapers, or both — but with tweaks to the draft order that should please broadcasters concerned the FCC would clutter up their video apps.
Broadcasters are pushing back on an FCC proposal to change how they notify viewers of certain applications those stations file with the FCC, arguing, for one thing, that it could put them at a streaming disadvantage to online video providers without such FCC regulation. The FCC is scheduled to vote on a final item at its May 13 public meeting teleconference.
Some broadcasters are asking the FCC to postpone any consideration of an increase in broadcast regulatory fees —radio and TV — during the current pandemic. Paul Rotella, president of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association (the state is one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus) wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to say he had grave concerns about the FCC’s plan to consider the fee boost at the May 13 public meeting (by teleconference).
The Insights Association, which represents research and analytics firms, has told the FCC it was wrong to propose changing how it determines whether a TV station is significantly viewed in a market outside its licensed market. The FCC approved the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking March 31 and initial comments are due May 14. The FCC is suggesting that actual signal strength of a station may be a better metric than audience/viewership data. The Insights Association says the FCC proposal would “abandon accurate audience measurement research in favor of engineering exercises in signal strength measurement,”
The FCC consent decree is largest ever paid by a broadcaster and stems from its negotiations to buy Tribune. “Sinclair’s conduct during its attempt to merge with Tribune was completely unacceptable,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Today’s penalty, along with the failure of the Sinclair-Tribune transaction, should serve as a cautionary tale to other licensees seeking commission approval of a transaction in the future.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and NAB President-CEO Gordon Smith will participate in a keynote conversation Wednesday, May 13, during the NAB Show Express Welcome event. The industry’s top regulator and the head of NAB will discuss communications policy issues before the FCC, including spectrum policy and media ownership. The opening session will be streamed on nabshowexpress.com at noon ET […]
This afternoon, the FCC released a brief Order looking toward the day when life in the U.S. hopefully returns to normal, and broadcast stations begin rehiring furloughed workers. In the two-page order, the FCC waived the requirement in its EEO rule that broadcasters and MVPDs engage in “broad outreach” when filling each full-time job position. Making clear that this relief is restricted to the circumstances of COVID-19, the FCC limited application of the waiver to the rehiring of station employees that were laid off due to the pandemic, and only where the employee is then rehired within nine months of being laid off.
TV station group Howard Stirk Holdings (HSH) has agreed to pay $100,000 and adopt a compliance regime to settle an FCC charge that it had breached its duty to negotiate retransmission consent agreements in good faith. HSH admitted to the good faith violation as part of the settlement. The FCC’s Media Bureau chief, Michelle Carey, said it would be in the public interest to adopt the consent decree and settle the matter.
The FCC has unveiled a new logo in anticipation of its upcoming move out of its current headquarters. The new seal was the winner in an agency-wide contest among commission employees and contractors, who voted on the submissions. The winning logo was submitted by Umasankar Arumugam, picked by a vote of employees and contractors.
New Jersey Broadcasters Association President-CEO Paul Rotella tells the commission that any increase in annual fees for TV and radio stations is not warranted and that this is not the appropriate time to put any further financial burdens on broadcasters.
The American Television Alliance told the FCC that the problems with a competitive communications marketplace are retrans blackouts, retrans fees and broadcast consolidation in spite of FCC rules that are supposed to limit it, consolidation that drives retrans fees higher and has driven some smaller MVPDs have been pushed out of that marketplace.
Broadcasters are telling the FCC that the current pandemic provides even more argument for loosening broadcast ownership regs. They are telling the FCC it needs to declare the video and audio markets more competitive than they have ever been, arguing that both FCC ownership limits — which the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai has tried to loosen — and Department of Justice merger reviews — are “premised on the view that local TV and radio stations exist in markets hermetically sealed against the vast array of choices available to audiences and advertisers.”
The FCC issued public notices this week on the license renewal process for both radio and television operators. The Public Notice on television renewals was perhaps more significant, as it addressed several issues and procedures for the television renewal process which begins with the filing of renewals for stations located in Maryland, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia, to be submitted to the FCC no later than June 1 of this year.
TV broadcasters on ch. 6 can breathe a a little easier, at least temporarily. The FCC has decided to defer a decision on scrapping its rules requiring low-power FMs and noncommercial educational FMs to protect TV ch. 6 from interference. The FCC had proposed doing so as part of an FM rule update approved this week, but decided to hold off.
While some were cheering the FCC’s decision to allow unlicensed devices — for things like streaming, video calling, IoT — to use all 1200 MHz of the 6 GHz band, there were some discouraging words as well. “NAB is disappointed the FCC is allowing uncoordinated unlicensed use across the entire 6 GHz band,” said EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton. “Unlike in other recent proceedings, the commission did not bring stakeholders together to seek compromise.”
Recently, FCC staff dismissed a request by the organization Free Press asking the FCC to investigate the broadcast of the President’s press conferences on the coronavirus and programs where commentators supported the President’s pronouncements. The FCC concluded that, in covering a breaking news story like the pandemic, it would be impossible for a broadcaster to fact check every statement made in a press conference and correct any misstatements in anything approaching real time, as there is so much room for interpretation of any statement made on these ongoing matters.
Pandemic or no, the FCC has signaled that it is business as usual for the 2020-23 TV station license renewal cycle, with the exception of public filing notices for the initial round of applications. That is according to the Media Bureau, which issued a reminder Monday (April 20).
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has asked the chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee to speak out against Free Press’s emergency petition to the FCC to stop what that group said was “right-wing personalities” spreading disinformation about the pandemic.
This week, the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Significant Viewing was published in the Federal Register, setting a comment deadline of May 14, with reply comments due by June 15. The NPRM asks for comments as to whether the FCC should update its rules for establishing whether or not a TV station is “significantly viewed” in a market other than the one in which it is located, and whether the FCC has the statutory authority to make changes to these rules that have largely been in effect since 1972.
The Solicitor General of the United States, on behalf of the FCC, has asked the Supreme Court to review a U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning most of its media ownership deregulation decision, hammering the circuit for what the FCC suggested was serial obstruction of what it had concluded was in the public interest.