By: Julia E. Judish, Scott R. Flick, and Jessica Nyman Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor published final regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) that more than doubled the minimum salary level necessary to be exempt from the Act’s overtime rules. While the changes affect all businesses subject to the FLSA, broadcasters in particular may feel the impact of the changes given the staffing models used by many TV and radio stations. The new requirements will go into effect on December 1, 2016, and broadcasters need to take steps to adapt to, and minimize the impact of, those changes prior to that deadline.
On June 13, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission will conduct a public/online demonstration of the expanded Online Public Inspection File (OPIF), which will replace the current Broadcast Public Inspection File (BPIF) process. The FCC will exhibit the interface that will be used by broadcast television and radio stations, cable systems, satellite television, and radio systems to file documents in the online public file database. The demonstration will inform users of the design, layout, and content of the OPIF site, discuss how to upload information and files, and present the new Application Program Interface (API) functionalities.
According to a report in TVNewsCheck, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed to eliminate two public file inspection rules. The rules currently mandate that:
• Commercial television and radio broadcast stations to retain, and make available to the public, copies of correspondence from viewers and listeners; and
• Cable operators to maintain and allow public inspection of the location of a cable system’s principal headend.
The commission says removing these requirements will allow broadcasters and cable operators to make their entire public inspection file available online and permit them to stop maintaining local public files. The agency maintains that modernizing the filing process will make it easier for consumers to access information about their broadcast services without having to travel to the station’s main studio and reduce the cost of broadcaster compliance.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released proposed fiscal year 2016 regulatory fee schedule. The agency is looking to collect the $384,012,497 with $133.97 million coming from radio and television stations. The new schedule adds a class for radio broadcasters who serve 3,000,001-6,000,000 people, and sets fees on a standardized incremental increase scale as the population served by the licensees increases. The fees range from $690 for a Class C AM in areas serving under 25,000 in population to $17,175 for FM Classes B, C, C0, C1, and C2 for stations serving over 6 million in population.
A package of bills creating the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) and extending FOIA provisions to the Governor’s office was unanimously approved by the House Oversight and Ethics Committee.
There were a couple key changes. Lawmakers added language empowering the administrator of the Legislative Council to recommend disciplinary action to the Speaker of the House or the majority leader of the Senate if the administrator determines that the House or Senate charged an excessive fee or failed to disclose the information on a timely basis. The bills now go to the full House Chamber for a vote.
Were you among the nearly 900 people to attend the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference and Expo?
Attendees said that this was the best group of speakers we have ever had. Evelyn Massaro WNMU, Northern Michigan University said, “I’ve attended most of the GLBC meetings and this was the best as far as variety of and quality of speakers for both commercial and public stations.”
Members came, they learned new ideas, and had a good time networking. The weather was great and the receptions were wonderful. We want to thank our exhibitors and sponsors who help to make GLBC one of the nations longest running and most successful state broadcast conferences and expo in the nation. If you attended we thank you. If not, maybe we’ll see you next year.
WGVU Public Media (Grand Rapids) will hold their annual Golf Outing Fundraiser on Wednesday, June 8 at The Meadows at Grand Valley State University. The event involves dozens of Grand Valley State University and public media friends and supporters enjoying an annual day on the links. The event is an 18-hole best-ball scramble format, with practice green and driving range hours 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. The event will offer prizes for contest holes and winning teams, and a silent auction. Proceeds support WGVU Public Broadcasting!
Western Michigan University’s public radio station, WMUK-FM, is getting a new general manager.
Stephen Anthony Williams will take the post beginning July 1. He has been general manager for WESM-FM at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore since 2011. He was interim general manager of the station for 18 months before that and had previously been the news and public affairs director and morning news host for the award-winning station.
Williams’ background also includes positions with an XM Satellite station and two AM stations in Arlington, Va. Before beginning his broadcast career, Williams taught English as a Peace Corps worker in Africa’s Republic of Cameroon. He is a 1999 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, where he majored in communications and minored in music.
Williams will replace Gordon Bolar, who is retiring June 30 after five years as WMUK general manager and more than 20 years in public radio and public television management.
The station Williams currently works at is similar to WMUK in format, offering a mix of music, news, and public service programming. He says he’s excited about the fundamental strengths he found at the station in Kalamazoo.
“The thing that stands out to me most is that WMUK has a truly dedicated staff, and that the administration of Western Michigan University is fully committed and supportive of the station’s success,” he says. “Importantly, there is also a community of listeners and supporters that stand behind the station, and it’s clear to me that both the station and the University are deeply engaged in serving both Kalamazoo and greater Southwest Michigan. In my experience, these are critical ingredients for success.”
Michigan celebrated AMBER Alert Awareness Week Sunday, May 15 through Saturday, May 21 to help bring more awareness to the Michigan AMBER Alert Program and to promote the importance of AMBER Alerts in recovering abducted or endangered children. The statewide AMBER Alert week was designated by the Michigan Senate in Senate Resolution 178, introduced by Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-37) of Traverse City. The resolution outlines the importance of AMBER Alerts, provides information about the program, and explains how funds are raised through the Michigan AMBER Alert Foundation (MAAF). MAAF helps support the program and technology to meet the ongoing mission to recover abducted or endangered children. Senator Schmidt said “Michigan AMBER Alert is just one of the many community services offered by our local broadcasters. The combination of AMBER Alerts and the excellent work of law enforcement have helped to return hundreds of children to their families.”
“The AMBER Alert system extends the eyes and ears of law enforcement to residents throughout the state who may be able to help in finding these children. More than 351 children have been returned to their families over the past 15 years,” according to Karole L. White, Chair of MAAF.
“The public’s help is essential to the success of an AMBER Alert, it takes our communities working together with law enforcement, broadcasters, and other government agencies to save the lives of our abducted and endangered children. Michigan’s AMBER Alert program would not work without the thousands of extra sets of eyes aiding in the search,” said D/Sgt. Sarah Krebs, of the Missing Persons Coordination Unit of the Michigan State Police. “We have many tools to help find missing children. AMBER Alert is just one and it is set aside for the special instances where details indicate that a child has been abducted.”
Michigan residents lead active lives that sometime take them away from their televisions and radios. The FCC approved the use of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), to inform the public about AMBER Alerts on their cell phones. This text alert provides brief basic details of the AMBER Alert within a specified area surrounding the suspected abduction or the whole state in certain instances. In Michigan, a WEA is only activated when there are details on the vehicle involved in the suspected abduction.
To help continue the Michigan AMBER Alert Program you may donate to MAAF HERE. MAAF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization and donations may be tax deductible to the extent of the tax code.