Meet your MAB Board Member of the week: Kathy Stinehour

Kathy Stinehour

Kathy Stinehour, Vice President/General Manager of Radio One cluster in Detroit, is an experienced broadcast executive with more than 25 years of senior management experience in media and radio broadcasting. She has served in her current position since 2008 and was previously President/CEO for Archway Broadcasting in Atlanta, Ga., from 2004-2007, Vice President/Market Manager for Cumulus Broadcasting in Toledo, Ohio, from 2003-2004 and Executive Vice President for Clear Channel Communications in Houston, New York and Chicago from 1995 to 2002. Kathy was named one of Radio Ink Magazine’s “Most Influential Women In Radio” in 2001, 2016, 2017 and 2018 as well as a “Who’s Who in Chicago Business” by Crain’s Chicago Business in 2001.

State Wants Study on Health Insurance Market

State Officials at the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) are calling for bids on a study of Michigan’s health insurance market with the goal of both stabilizing the market and lowering overall costs. In a statement, DIFS Director Patrick McPharlin said the “goal is to study options that could have a meaningful impact on reducing health insurance premiums while ensuring coverage is comprehensive and accessible.”

The study will affect Michigan’s decision on seeking a Section 1332 waiver allowed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A waiver under that section allows a state to be exempted from ACA requirements if it can show the state can do a better job of meeting the ACA’s goals and not cost the federal government any more money. Several states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, are operating under Section 1332 waivers.

Michigan Gubernatorial Race Ranks 6th In TV Spending

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer/Republican Bill Schuette

Michigan’s governor race has generated $18 million in broadcast television spending, according to Advertising Analytics.

Michigan ranks sixth among the states for most money spent in a gubernatorial race.  Illinois takes the top spot at $50 million, which is far and above the rest of the nation by $21 million.

Second place at $29 million is Florida, followed by Ohio ($27 million), Wisconsin ($24 million) and Nevada ($20 million) with three weeks of spending to go.

Overall, broadcasting stations have enjoyed a $168 million windfall in advertising revenue.

Candidates Debate on Local Radio

At least two local Michigan radio stations have had candidates in the upcoming November election in their studio for debates.

On October 15, WKZO-AM (Kalamazoo) hosted a one-hour debate for the major Congressional candidates for the 6th District seat.  Incumbent Republican Fred Upton and Democrat Matt Longjohn answered questions ranging from Longjohn’s M.D. title to fixing the roads, improving Michigan’s schools, the PFAS issue, and more.

A livestream video and recap of the debate can be found on WKZO’s Facebook page here.  The debate was simulcast on co-owned WSJM-FM in St. Joseph.

On October 16, WILS-AM (Lansing) hosted a debate between the candidates for Michigan’s 8th Congressional District.  Democratic candidate Elissa Slotkin and incumbent Republican Mike Bishop answered questions posed by station morning host /Dave Akerly.

The topics included  topics such as spending, health care, the opioid crisis and more.  A podcast of the debate is available on the station’s website here.

Music Modernization Act Becomes Law – Mechanical Rights To Become Easier Just As Performance Rights May Become More Difficult

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

Last week, after passage by both chambers of Congress and signature by the President, the ‘‘Orrin G. Hatch–Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act’’ became law. The law underwent a few changes on its journey to approval, adding new provisions in the Senate to those which we summarized here upon its initial passage by the House. The Act retained its same principal purposes. The driving force behind the Act was the desire to simplify the payment of “mechanical royalties” by digital music services for the reproduction and distribution of the millions of musical compositions that they use in the songs that they serve up to more and more consumers across the country. That simplification was accomplished through the creation of a new collective through which these royalties will be paid – essentially a one-stop shop where the statutory royalty will be paid. The collective will have the responsibility for finding the copyright holders and songwriters who share in the royalties – removing the need for the music services to have to identify and pay all of the appropriate rightsholders, a process that has resulted in legal claims for hundreds of millions of dollars against these services for not being able to find all the parties who are supposed to be paid for the mechanical royalties.

The general layout of the system for dealing with the payment of these royalties, through a collective to be established, remains essentially the same as in the initial House Bill. Other provisions were added in the Senate (and then approved again by the House) dealing with matters including pre-1972 sound recordings, Sirius-XM royalties, and the ability of existing music organizations to continue to do direct licenses for mechanical and other rights outside the new statutory system. We may write about those issues later. But the Senate addition likely to have the most significance for the most music users was one having nothing to do with mechanical royalties, but instead with the performance royalty for music works (musical compositions) that is paid by music services, radio stations, bars and restaurants and any other location that plays music that is heard by the public at large. The new language added by the Senate requires that, before the Department of Justice recommends any changes to the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI, the DOJ must first notify Congress of any changes that it will be suggesting to the courts that administer the decrees, so that Congress can decide if it wants to take action to block or modify any such changes. Why is that significant?

Performance rights in the United States, until a few years ago, were relatively straightforward. Music users paid royalties to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and then pretty much were free to play almost any song that they wanted to. Sure, there were occasional issues over whether the royalties charged by these performing rights organizations (PROs) were fair, and having three PROs in the United States was two more than existed in most other major countries, but nevertheless the system generally worked especially as ASCAP and BMI, by far the two largest organizations, were governed by antitrust consent decrees overseen by U.S. District Court Judges in the Southern District of New York. These two PROs could not raise rates without the prospect of a rate court proceeding to determine if their proposed rates were fair. So, while there was no one-stop shop to which royalties were paid for the public performance of musical compositions, the three legacy PROs effectively provided a statutory license system without any statute having been adopted.

But, as we have written many times, that system is beginning to break down, as major publishing companies have threatened to withdraw their catalog from ASCAP and BMI to license it themselves (see our articles here and here), or as new PROs, like GMR, have been established to try to get higher royalties for the musical works to which they have rights. While there has been one lawsuit against GMR to try to bring it under some antitrust regime (and similar successful suits against SESAC which had never previously been subject to antitrust constraints, see our articles here, here and here), the pressures to splinter the performing rights licensing in the US has continued to grow. We wrote about some of the concerns that could arise with the splintering of performing rights organizations, especially given the often fractured nature of the ownership of copyright in musical works, here.

Further increasing the concerns about changes to the performing rights marketplace have been the numerous statements from the current head of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice that he does not believe that the Department should be setting regulations for industries through long-term antitrust consent decrees – that such regulations should be the role of Congress or administrative agencies. It has been made clear that these statements specifically include the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees, as they are among the consent decrees that have been in place for the longest period of time.

It would certainly be ironic for the Music Modernization Act to fix mechanical royalties by creating a one-stop shop for royalty payments, just as the performing rights licensing process was splintering. One complicated long-term problem would have been fixed, just as what was a relatively stable marketplace appears to be becoming more unstable. It was therefore important that Congress put this check on the DOJ taking action to further free the PROs from their current restraints. Of course, were Congress notified of the desire of the DOJ to make changes, it is an open question whether Congress could adopt a new statute to take the place of the current consent decrees in the time-frames set under the new Act. Given that many of the last-minute changes that were necessary to assure passage of the Music Modernization Act to relieve concerns of specific companies in the music industry, any reform of the performing rights process is likely to include even bigger players in the industry with even more entrenched interests that could take a long time to resolve. But at least Congress has the ability to put a check on the action – and these issues may well need to be resolved in the Music Modernization Act, Part II.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.

FCC Extends C-Band Registration Deadline to October 31

On October 17, the FCC, at the last minute, extended the deadline for those who wish to register their C-Band satellite receive dishes.  Tom Taylor, in his daily news mailing, writes: “the Commission acknowledges ‘intermittent difficulties.’ It says ‘due to the large influx of earth-station applications filed near the deadline, the IBFS [International Bureau Filing System] has experienced intermittent difficulties that have prevented some applicants from filing for a license or registration.” The new deadline – this is its second extension – will be October 31.

Taylor also notes: “The urgency here is that syndicators and other suppliers who send content to affiliates via satellites using the 3.7 GHz to 4.2 GHz spectrum worry that sharing it with wireless carriers will mess up reception. Once that happens, there’s no fixing it. Syndicators (and stations) hope that demonstrating the large number of current users will make the FCC cautious about changes. See the “Two week extension” notice  here.”

FCC Keeps National EAS (NPT) Form 2 Reporting Open Until November 19

The FCC has notified state broadcast associations that it is keeping the filing window open for Form 2 until November 19.  Form 2 was required to be submitted  by midnight on the day of the test, October 3.  Greg Cooke, Deputy Chief, Policy & Licensing Division, Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC said it was due to reports that many EAS participants had difficulty logging in.

On that same date, November 19, is the deadline for filing Form 3.

For more information, visit the FCC’s EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) website here.

WEMU to Hold New Donor Welcome Reception

On November 14, Eastern Michigan University’s WEMU-FM (Ypsilanti) will  hold a reception for new donors to the station.  Those who make a first-time donation of $200 or more can join the station at a New Donor Welcome Reception from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at Zingerman’s Greyline in downtown Ann Arbor.

New donors can enjoy hors d’oeuvres, live jazz from the Doug Horn Trio, and the opportunity to meet WEMU’s air personalities, staff and local content partners.

For more information, check out the station’s event page on Facebook here.

Sports Reporter/Anchor James Starks Joins WZZM Mornings

James Starks

WZZM-TV (Grand Rapids) has announced that James Starks will join the ensemble cast of 13 On Your Side Mornings beginning Monday, November 5.

Starks has covered the World Series, NBA Playoffs, NFL Draft and many other major sporting events as a sports anchor and reporter for KPRC in the Houston, Texas area. Prior to moving to Houston, James covered the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference extensively at WZZM sister station WLTX-TV in Columbia, S.C.

“I’m thrilled to be joining such an amazing team at WZZM, and am even more excited to explore everything Grand Rapids and West Michigan has to offer,” Starks said.

“James will bring a new perspective to this market,” said WZZM President and General Manager, Janet Mason. “The natural rapport between our ensemble cast will bring an exciting and fresh energy to morning television.”

Starks was a former two-sport athlete at Capital University in Columbus, OH and two-time All-American and captain of the football team. He then signed a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals before going overseas to continue his career with the Ancona (Italy) Dolphins.

“James is the perfect fit for our team,” said Julie Flynn, WZZM News Director. “His energy and enthusiasm will help brighten West Michigan mornings.”

24/7 NewsNet Sets Launch Date, Seeks Affiliates

New network based in Cadillac

Left: NewsNet’s Remington Hernandez and Photojournalist Wyatt VanDuinen film a report outside a Michigan courthouse. Right: NewsNet Midday Anchor Jessica Mojonnier practices a broadcast in preparation for the network’s launch.

NewsNet, a new 24/7 news channel focused on headlines rather than talk and opinion, has set its launch date for January 1, 2019.

Developed by the award-winning team responsible for building 24/7 local news channels across the country, NewsNet aims to bring the success of these local channels to the national level.

“In recent years, we’ve heard more and more complaints about existing 24/7 national news channels, particularly the increase in opinion-based programming on these channels,” explained Eric Wotila, President of NewsNet. “Meanwhile, we’ve received nothing but compliments about the no-nonsense and commentary-free local news coverage we provide on the 24/7 local news channel we operate in northern Michigan. Earlier this year, we decided it was time to make the same style of news available nationally – and we’re going to do that with the launch of NewsNet.”

NewsNet will follow a traditional news wheel format, with updates added to the wheel throughout each day when breaking news develops. A typical half-hour will start with about 2 minutes of coverage of the top story of the moment, followed by several minutes of headlines, an overview of the weather across the nation, various franchise segments such as health, technology or entertainment, a sports report, and finally, feature stories highlighting unique people, places and organizations across the country – which, in some markets, may be preempted by a local news cut-in.

At its launch, NewsNet will be available primarily as a diginet carried on the subchannels of TV stations across the country. The network is working with both low-power and full-power stations to distribute its signal. So far, they’ve secured several million households worth of distribution – but they’re working to increase that number significantly by the time they launch in January.

“We received strong interest in NewsNet from stations across the country when we first announced the network in March,” explained Wotila, “but many of them wanted to wait until we were closer to launch to commit to carrying our programming. Now that our launch is less than 3 months away, we’re seeing more stations actually signing affiliation agreements, rather than just expressing an interest in the network. That said, we’re still actively seeking affiliates – we’d love to be in at least 10 million households when we launch.”

Stations interested in becoming NewsNet affiliates can email to learn more. The network will also be available to meet with stations interested in affiliation during NAB New York later this month.