RETRANS WARS

Minority Groups Want FCC To End Blackouts

The FCC should require broadcasters and television providers to maintain programming regardless of the status of retransmission negotiations, according to a coalition of minority advocacy groups.

FCC Freezes TV Station Channel Changes

In another example of how seriously the FCC is considering the reallocation of portions of the TV spectrum for wireless broadband use, the commission today issued a Public Notice freezing any new petitions for changes in the channels of television stations. Since the DTV transition, almost 100 stations have changed channels — mostly moving from VHF to UHF channels, as TV operators have in determined that VHF channels are subject to more interference and viewer complaints about over-the-air reception.

Bloomberg And Comcast Fighting Again

The business news giant is accusing Comcast of reneging on a promise it made to the FCC as part of the government agency’s approval of its deal to acquire control of General Electric Co.’s NBCUniversal. At issue is where the Bloomberg Television channel is placed on Comcast cable systems.

FCC Issues CALM Act Rulemaking

The FCC has quietly released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on implementation of the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act, which regulates the loudness of commercials on broadcast and cable TV. It puts the onus on stations and cable operators to mitigate that loudness on all commercials, not just those that are locally inserted, as some industry representatives had argued it should be limited to.

Cablevision: Make Station Retrans Fees Public

Looking to combat runaway retrans costs and sometimes testy negotiations that lead to TV program blackouts cable operator Cablevision Systems Corp. filed a proposal with the FCC for some reforms.

STATION ADVISORY

You Can File For License Renewal Too Early

During the last license renewal cycle, the FCC handed out an unprecedented number of fines to broadcasters who failed to file their license renewal applications on time. There is, however, such as thing as being too early. The FCC has already returned at least four license renewal applications because they were filed too early.

Ivi TV Files FOIA Request With The FCC

The TV streaming company wants all documents, files and more regarding FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker and ivi.

Worries Over Planned Video Description Rules

The National Association of Broadcasters and Fox News Channel are among those arguing that TV news should be exempt from video description rules the FCC is looking to establish, according to FCC filings.

Baker Defends Decision To Take Comcast Job

Meredith Attwell Baker, who announced earlier this week that she was leaving the agency to join the lobbying operations of Comcast, defended her actions on Friday, saying she had no contact with Comcast about potential employment while the company’s merger with NBC Universal was pending before the commission earlier this year.

FCC’S Baker To Resign, Join Comcast-NBCU

FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker plans to resign to take a job as the Washington, D.C., representative of NBCUniversal. Baker confirmed that she is leaving the post on June 3, but did not say what her intentions are. Comcast-NBCU, however, issued a release saying she will join Comcast as senior vice president of government affairs, NBCUniversal.

FCC Gets Tough On Tower Violations

Three recent FCC cases demonstrate how seriously the FCC views tower site issues — imposing fines up to $14,000 for various violations of FCC rules.

New NCTA Chief Powell Gets FCC Welcome

If Wednesday night’s Washington reception for former FCC Chairman and now National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell was any indication, he will have a respectful and attentive commission audience for his advocacy for the cable industry.

ANALYSIS BY SCOTT R. FLICK

Will Marijuana Ads Affect License Renewals?

Broadcasters don’t know it yet, but recent actions by the Department of Justice suggest that the federal government may be moving closer to raining on their upcoming license renewals. The reason? Medical marijuana advertising.

FCC Names Senior Communications Staffers

CASH FOR SPECTRUM

CBS Plans To Keep Its Stations’ Spectrum

In its comments on the FCC’s proposals on channel-sharing, spectrum “repacking” and improving VHF transmissions, CBS has taken a slightly less adversarial tone than the NAB, group owners representing hundreds of TV stations and state broadcast associations. And since it says it is not going to be selling its spectrum, or planning to share it with other stations, CBS put an emphasis on the FCC making sure those left behind are still in control of their own destiny.

Group Owners: FCC Spectrum Plan Unlawful

State associations also oppose any plan without an enforceable guarantee that broadcasters will be held harmless in all respects.

OPEN MIKE BY PATRICK MAINES

Michael Copps’ Excellent Adventure

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is now in his 10th and final year as commissioner and he still isn’t happy with the state of media and the journalism it supports. If he and the rest of the FCC couldn’t fix things during the last decade, perhaps the problem all along hasn’t been consolidation or avarice as he argues. Maybe it’s been that what ails the media, and the way forward, are more complex than to be availing of the kind of nostrums Copps has been peddling.

Satellite Ops Want Piece Of FCC Broadband Fund

Petition Pushes FCC On Raycom Decision

Free Press filed a petition at the FCC from 150-plus Hawaiians asking it to act on a complaint against Raycom for its operation of three Honolulu TV stations under a shared services agreement. Free Press pointed out Tuesday that Media Council Hawaii had filed the complaint in October 2009 and no action has yet been taken.

JESSELL AT LARGE

Local TV News Fix: Full Free Speech Rights

Steve Waldman, the FCC’s point man of saving local jounalism, might actually do some good by calling for full First Amendment rights for broadcasters. He can start by condemning the fines that the FCC imposed a couple of weeks ago on New Jersey’s tiny WMGM and Fox O&O KMSP Minneapolis for running VNRs. The fines are an affront to the free speech rights of all broadcasters. Waldman should say so and call on Congress to get out of the business of regulating TV and radio content.

Court Tosses Verizon’s Net Neutrality Appeal

In a victory for the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet, a D.C. court today dismissed Verizon’s appeal of the commission’s net neutrality rules.

CASH FOR SPECTRUM

FCC To Move On Auctions ‘Promptly’

Proving yet again that where there’s a will, there’s a way, the FCC has announced that it is proceeding with incentive auctions “promptly”. This is noteworthy, of course, because Congress still hasn’t gotten around to authorizing the sharing of auction proceeds — and the conventional wisdom has been that, without such authority, incentive auctions were a non-starter.

Comments Date Set On FCC Retrans Rules

The FCC’s recent Notice of Proposed Rule Making exploring possible changes to the television retransmission consent rules has now been published in the Federal Register setting the date for comments as May 27, with reply comments due by June 27.

FCC Wants Comments On Ch. 51 Takeback

Federal regulators are seeking feedback on a petition from the wireless industry to kick broadcasters off of ch. 51. The CTIA—The Wireless Association and the Rural Cellular Association filed a petition with the FCC asking for an immediate license freeze on ch. 51. They also want the FCC to clear the channel as soon as possible of broadcasters who “reach voluntary agreements to relocate to an alternate channel,” according to the FCC’s related Public Notice.

GOP Inquisitor Goes Hard After Genachowski

Spectrum Hearing Won’t Move

A House Communications & Internet Subcommittee spokesperson said an April 12 hearing on spectrum issues will not be rescheduled again. It has a lot of competition for broadcaster and media attention since it is scheduled for the same day that thousands of broadcasters — and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker — will be in Las Vegas for NAB’s annual convention.

Issa Wants Info On FCC White House Visits

In a letter to the FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, Rep. Darrell Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, says the FCC answers on the net neutrality rule process were not sufficient.

Genachowski Defends FCC Budget On Hill

The FCC chairman is scheduled to appear before the Republican-led House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies on March 30. The FCC’s budget has been targeted by some House Republicans as a way to defund the commission’s new network neutrality rules and to zero out funding for its chief diversity officer position.

Saber-Rattling On The Nondiscrimination Front

Genachowski Pushes For Spectrum Move

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski brought his call for moving swiftly to free up more wireless spectrum to the International CTIA show in Orlando, the wireless companies who have been pushing the FCC hard to make that happen.

FCC Issues New Renewal Requirement

The new requirement is aimed at advertising contracts that contain “no urban/no Spanish” dictates, by which advertisers and their agencies intentionally by-pass urban and Latino stations.

Station Groups: FCC Proposals Are Illegal

More than two-dozen station groups and owners representing more than 200 TV stations across the country have banded together to tell the FCC that its approach to freeing up spectrum is illegal, and in comments to the FCC said, essentially, they can’t comment fully on it because of the FCC’s piecemeal approach to the issue.

Broadcasters Give FCC Spectrum Plan

Broadcasters have told the FCC to do some more looking before it makes its wireless spectrum leap. In comments on the FCC’s spectrum proceeding, the National Association of Broadcasters outlined a five-point plan it said was the right way for the FCC to proceed.

Walden Questions FCC Spectrum Plan

Chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee and one-time radio broadcaster Greg Walden expesses doubt that the FCC plan for reclaiming broadcast spectrum is voluntary for broadcasters. He also joins broadcasters in calling for a spectrum inventory to determine whether taking back broadcast spectrum is truly necessary.

UPDATED

Genachowski Defends Incentive Auctions

The FCC chairman addresses what he calls “misimpressions,” saying there is no spectrum hoarding by cable and wireless companies; that there is already a spectrum inventory; that spectrum subleasing by broadcasters won’t solve the broadband spectrum shortage; and emphasizd that any  spectrum repacking would be limited and stations would be fully reimbursed for any moves and “we would propose that stations not be forced to move from the UHF band to the VHF band; rather, any such moves would be purely voluntary.”

STATION ADVISORY

FCC Adds Provisions To Renewal Form 303S

The FCC released a Public Notice announcing new provisions in its license renewal Form 303S — the form that radio and television stations will be using to file license renewal applications, starting with license renewals for radio stations in DC, Virginia and West Virginia in June. The changes include the addition of certifications concerning whether a station was off the air at any point during the license term for more than 30 days; whether principals of the licensee have interests in daily newspapers in the same area; and whether the station is in compliance with the RF radiation rules.

Goodmon Pitches Alternative Spectrum Plan

Contending that the FCC’s plan for reclaiming broadcast spectrum will not work, Capitol Broadcasting Jim Goodmon CEO proposed an alternative “overlay” plan under which broadcasters would handle distribution of video when wireless broadband providers can’t handle the traffic volume themselves.

JESSELL AT LARGE

NAB Needs To Get Spectrum Act Together

The FCC plan to reclaim a big block of broadcast spectrum is the most critical issue facing broadcasters in the past three decades. So it’s perplexing that they chose this time to shut down MSTV, their longtime spectrum policy lobby, and to diss NAB’s top tech exec. Those moves raise the stakes in NAB’s hiring of a new EVP of technology. The right person keeps broadcasting in the game. The wrong person puts it on the same grim road as newspapers.

FCC: Genachowski ‘Very Happy’ Where He Is

After reports that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is being considered to become secretary of Commerce, the FCC is making a show of denying the rumors, and emphasizing just how pleased Genachowski is in his current job.

JESSELL AT LARGE

Retrans Review Threatens Local Exclusivity

While the just-announced FCC review of its retransmission consent rules doesn’t include commission intervention when talks fail, there are some things broadcasters need to be wary of. Most important is the proposal to eliminate the non-dupe rule. Without it, cable systems would be able to import an affiliate from a another market to replace one that it loses in a retrans dispute with impunity.