Category Archives: 2018

There’s No Sunshine in Michigan

By: Jane Briggs-Bunting,
President, Michigan Coalition for Open Government (MiCOG)
Reprinted by permission

Jane Briggs-Bunting

As citizens around the country celebrate the 13th annual national Sunshine Week from March 11-17, Michigan residents have nothing to cheer.

A series of open records bills that would put Michigan in sync with the rest of the country are buried, once again, in the state Senate Government Operations Committee through the actions of Senate Majority Leader Meekhof, R-Grand Haven.

Despite unanimous bipartisan support in the House for the Legislative Open Records Act spelled out in House Bills 4148-4157, Sen. Meekhof will not move the bills out of the committee that he chairs, or even allow a vote within the committee.

Michigan is the only state in the nation in which state law exempts the governor and lieutenant governor from the requirements of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. In 1986, then-Attorney General Frank Kelley issued an opinion that the Michigan Legislature also is exempt from FOIA. Current Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office recently reconfirmed that opinion.

This makes Michigan a FOIA outlier among the states. It means the citizens here have no right to request and obtain records from their governor and lieutenant governor (a critical issue as the Flint water debacle unfolded) or their elected representatives.

City councils, township and school boards, local and county governments are all required under FOIA to provide public records — except in the case of a limited number of exemptions — to people who request them. But what is required of local public officials is not required of Michigan’s state elected officials.

The Michigan Supreme Court summarily exempted itself from FOIA’s requirements when the law was passed in 1976. The high court ruled that FOIA’s mandates violated the separation of powers of the three branches of government, and that the legislative and executive branches could not compel the judicial branch to be covered by FOIA. So now Michigan citizens have no way of making the governor, lieutenant governor, legislators or justices respond to FOIA requests.

 Meekhof told a group of journalists last year that only they care about FOIA. Journalists do file many FOIA requests as part of their job to watchdog government at all levels. But everyday citizens also file FOIAs and plenty of them, as we at the Michigan Coalition for Open Government know well.
Our FOIA is not perfect. Improvements are needed. High fees are still an issue for citizens seeking public records.
Another major loophole is in delivering records sought from public bodies. By statute, public officials are required to respond to a FOIA request within a maximum of 15 business days. Within that time period, they must respond by granting or denying the request all or in part. However, there is no deadline for when those records must actually be provided.
This is a loophole that some public bodies already have used to slow down turning over records. Michigan State University played this game initially with FOIA requests by media over the Larry Nassar case. Flint requesters also met, at times, with similar delays.
The bills making up the Legislative Open Records Act would be a major step forward toward making state elected officials more accountable.  The current lack of accountability and transparency earned Michigan an F grade in 2015 in the Center for Public Integrity’s survey of all 50 states. Michigan should earn another F in the next survey if lawmakers don’t pass the Legislative Open Records Act.
This is Sen. Meekhof’s last term due to limits. The hope is that, in the next session, senators will join their House colleagues and make themselves, the governor and his lieutenant subject to FOIA — and that the new governor signs the bills into law.
Jane Briggs-Bunting is a former reporter, editor, journalism teacher and ardent FOIA advocate. She is a board member and founding president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government (MiCOG).
MiCOG is a nonprofit corporation founded to promote and protect transparency and accountability in government at the local, state and federal levels. For more information or to join, visit www.miopengov.org.

Long-Time West Michigan Radio Engineer Honored with MAB’s Carl E. Lee Broadcast Engineering Excellence Award

2018 Carl E. Lee Broadcast Engineering Excellence Award honoree Tom Bosscher, Chief Engineer at WSCG-FM (left), and MAB Chairman Peter Tanz, Senior Vice President, Midwest Communications (right).

The Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) presented its most prestigious engineering award during the Great Lakes Media Show on March 7 at the Lansing Center. The 2108 Carl E. Lee Broadcast Engineering Excellence Award was presented to Tom Bosscher, Chief Engineer at WSCG-FM (Grand Rapids Christian Radio).

Tom Bosscher started his career in broadcasting at an early age. He received his first amateur radio license when he was in grade school, and took the test to obtain his FCC Radiotelephone 1st class license on a dare while still in high school. Tom started his official broadcast career at WION-AM in Ionia and found himself at the WOOD-AM/FM stations in Grand Rapids at the age of 18.

He later went on to WLAV-AM/FM in Grand Rapids and installed a Pirod 400-foot tower, FM antenna and transmitter for the Class B upgrade.

In June 1995, he went to work for WCSG-FM. Among his first projects was the installation of a 25kw Continental transmitter and FM DA antenna and installing the first of many Broadcast Electronics AudioVault systems. Tom has helped WCSG expand to four on-air stations.

Tom is credited for designing the Grand Rapids Area Information Line (GRAIL), a “one phone call” school closing system that served the Grand Rapids local schools for 12 years. He also developed a significant mobile remote setup using three receiver sites, three vehicular repeaters, two communication grade repeaters and ran 300 to 400 remotes a year for newly built studios for the Federated Media Grand Rapids stations, WCUZ and WCUZ-FM.

Tom has served the local SBE chapter in many fronts, including serving as the SBE West Michigan frequency coordinator for 1 GHz and down. He is a member of the MAB’s Engineering Board and serves on the LEPC for Ottawa County. He is also the host for a mission driven forum for Christian Radio Technical forum on crtech.org

Legislators and Staff Want to Quash Redistricting Subpoenas

According to a report in Gongwer, 25 current and former legislators and legislative staffers subpoenaed by plaintiffs challenging Michigan’s maps for the U.S. House, Michigan Senate and Michigan House have filed a motion last week to quash those subpoenas.

The motion was filed at the U.S. District Court in Detroit, which is hearing the case, the motion argues the subpoena violates legislative privilege that protects legislative communications, are overly broad, request information unrelated to the plaintiffs’ claims and impose an undue burden on nonparty legislators, former legislators and current and former legislative staff.

Democratic voters have filed suit against the 2011 reapportionment plan passed that year by the Legislature as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Snyder Announces Special Election to Fill Johnson’s Seat

Governor Snyder set the special election schedule for the 2nd Senate District seat vacated by the resignation of State Sen. Bert Johnson.

The special election will track with the current August 7 primary and November 6 general election, according to a letter Snyder sent to Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. Democratic, Republican and Libertarian candidates have until April 24 by 4 p.m. to file affidavits of identity as well as nominating petitions or filing fees and until April 27 by 4 p.m. to withdraw. Candidates without political party affiliation have until July 19 by 4 p.m. to file petitions and affidavits of identity and July 23 by 4 p.m. to withdraw.

Johnson  pleaded guilty earlier this month to one count of conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program as part of a plea deal in a federal corruption case.

FCC to Release Additional Repack Funds

According to a report in Broadcasting & Cable, the FCC will  release an additional appropriation of repack funding over the next four to six weeks. The move comes after the FCC announced it has received verified and unverified post-auction repack expenses totaling $1.95 billion.

The move was praised by the National Association of Broadcasters.

“We intend to work with policymakers to ensure that broadcasters are quickly and fairly compensated for these expenses. Our overriding goal is a successful repack that protects viewers and is completed as expeditiously as possible,” said NAB’s Dennis Wharton.

The FCC signaled that there would be multiple allocations to cover expenses related to moving to new channels after the auction. The agency also signaled that the $1.75 billion would not be enough.

Register Now: State Capitol Advocacy Day is May 15

The MAB Board of Directors and
President/CEO Karole L. White invite you
 to attend a broadcast industry
State Capitol Advocacy Day on May 15. 
MAB members are invited to meet with their local lawmakers and leaders who chair committees of influence to the broadcast industry.
Registration Deadline: May 1, 2018
Why Attend State Capitol Day?

The purpose of this event is to showcase television and radio stations’ commitment to their local communities and the investment it takes to make that happen. This includes community service, local programming content and the broadcast industry’s economic impact and job creation.

With term limits in place, it is important that we maintain strong relationships with our legislators so that the MAB can most effectively represent your interests. What is the best way to do that? By having constituents visit lawmakers and explain why these issues are important to them.

In the past, we have supported or opposed several pieces of critical legislation, for example:

  • We work to oppose any proposal for state ad tax or tax on services.
  • MAB works to open up public notice revenue to our members by reforming the outdated public notice laws.
  • MAB helped pass legislation to standardize FOIA costs across the state.
  • MAB battles to keep the sales tax deduction on broadcasting equipment.
  • MAB works to ensure your station is not burdened by state regulations on the use of drones in newsgathering.
State Capitol Advocacy Day

Schedule of Events

8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
MAB Board Meeting and Breakfast

Christman Building, 208 N. Capitol Ave.

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Legislative Issues Briefing

Christman Building 208 N. Capitol Ave.

10:00 a.m. – Noon
 Meetings with State Representatives

House Office Building

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Lunch with Lawmakers

Capitol Building

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Meetings with State Senators

Binsfeld Office Building

Please NOTE: Appointments will be scheduled for you with each of your legislators. Our lobbyist, Rob Elhenicky of Kelley-Cawthorne and MAB’s Government Relations Director Elena Palombo will hold a briefing to update you on the state legislative issues. You will receive talking points and meeting materials two weeks prior to the event. You will also have a chance to meet with the legislators and staff during the legislative luncheon at the Capitol.
Registration Deadline: May 1, 2018

MAPB Elects Officers

Newly elected MAPB Board of Directors President Gary Reid (left), Director Emeritus for Michigan State University Public Broadcasting, and immediate past-president Eric Smith (right), Director of Broadcasting, Northern Michigan University.
The Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters (MAPB) elected its 2018-2019 Officers of the Board of Directors during a board meeting held on Tuesday, March 6 in conjunction with the Great Lakes Media Show at the Lansing Center.
Officers elected to the 2018-2019 MAPB  Board of Directors: 
President: Gary Reid, Michigan State University Public Broadcasting
Vice-President: Steve Schram, Michigan Public Media
Treasurer: Tom Bennett, Delta College Public Broadcasting
Secretary: Ken Kolbe, Central Michigan University Public Broadcasting
For more information about MAPB and the board members visit MichMAB.com/MAPB.

2018 Call on Congress Update

Left to Right: MAB Secretary/Treasurer Zoe Burdine-Fly (Market President, Townsquare Media), Fred Corbus (General Manager, WWMT-TV), Karole White, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-6), MAB Vice-Chairman Gary Baxter (Vice President and General Manager, WSYM-TV), and MAB Chairman Peter Tanz (Senior Vice President, Midwest Communications)

On February 27 and 28,   MAB members traveled to Washington, D.C. for the 2018 National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference and MAB Call on Congress.

Michigan broadcasters met with the Michigan Congressional delegation and their telecommunication staff to discuss: (1) the need to ensure that the repacking timeline and relocation funds are adequate as not to disrupt TV and radio broadcast service; (2) ensuring the ability of broadcasters and pay –TV operators to continue conducting private, market-driven negotiations for retransmission consent; (3) broadcasters’ opposition to the performance tax and MAB’s support of the Local Radio Freedom Act; and (4) broadcasters’ opposition to the Microsoft request for free spectrum to operate unlicensed devices.