November 30 marked the completion of the first phase of TV channel repacking process. The second phase began on December 1. According to the FCC, at least 140 stations in more than 20 markets changed frequencies in the first phase of the post-incentive auction channel move. Over a thousand TV stations are being moved to a different frequency in the process that extends to July 2020.
The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution (S. Res. 501) on protecting press freedom, including calling on President Trump to be a leader in defending the freedom of press, including a press that promotes “government accountability.”
S. Res. 501 recognizes that there are threats to the freedom of press and journalists around the world and that “reaffirming freedom of the press” is a “priority in efforts of the Government of the United States to promote democracy and good governance.”
The Radio-Television Digital News Association’s (RTDNA) Executive Director Dan Shelly, in a statement, called the Senate action a “much-needed affirmation of the importance of the First Amendment and press freedom in the United States. Just as important, it urges a president and an administration that has often been hostile to journalists to instead promote – and protect – those who serve the public by seeking and reporting the truth around the world.
It is gratifying that, at a time when the leader of the free world occasionally calls journalists the ‘enemy of the people,’ that the Senate, on a bipartisan and unanimous basis, would support press freedom at home and abroad.”
On November 29, House Democrats elected U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-12) as one of four leaders of the caucus’ messaging arm.
Dingell will co-chair the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee along with Chair David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Co-Chairs Ted Lieu of California and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania.
Dingell, a former member of the Democratic National Committee, had pressed the need for Midwest representation in the leadership of the committee, which oversees the caucus’ policy agenda and communications strategy.
In an article appearing in the Detroit News, Dingell said, “I’m going to make sure that when we’re at the table talking policy and message that the Midwest’s and the Heartland’s viewpoint is represented. That already happened today,”
Other members of the Michigan delegation also won election to leadership posts.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-6) was re-elected earlier in the week to the House Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments.
In addition, incoming House Democrats elected Representative-elect Haley Stevens (D-11) as co-president of their freshman class.
According to a report in Gongwer, Michigan Senate Republicans passed legislation last week that allows nonprofit organizations to not be forced to disclose their donors. Opponents of the bill called the measure a way of hiding who is contributing to political attack advertisements.
SB 1176 passed by a 25-12 vote. The bill prohibits public agencies from requiring any 501(c) designated organizations under the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to disclose donors without permission unless sought through a criminal warrant or through discovery in a lawsuit. This means that the Department of Attorney General or any agency conducting investigations would have to obtain a warrant to access such information about a charity group rather than merely requesting it.
By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,
On December 6, the FCC has started to email out notices to numerous radio stations throughout the country, notifying them that there are issues with their online public inspection files. The email notices do not reveal what the specific problem is – but instead simply say that there are issues and ask for notice of corrective actions to the FCC. We have been warning of the FCC’s concern about incomplete or inactive online public files for some time, and the potential impact that noncompliance could have on license renewal, which starts for radio stations in the Washington DC area in June 2019, and then moves across the country in this three-year renewal cycle (see, for instance, our articles here and here). Clearly, this is a warning to stations that the FCC is watching their public files, and that compliance problems will bring issues, and possibly fines, if the files are not complete by license renewal time (or even earlier if documents were not timely created).
As we have written before (here and here), the biggest issues will likely be with stations not uploading Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and, for stations that are part of clusters with 5 or more full-time employees, Annual EEO Public Inspection file reports. Look at your file now and make sure that you are in compliance with these and all other public file obligations to insure that you do not have issues that can come back to haunt you at renewal time – or at any other time that the FCC decides to use its enforcement authority to start issuing fines.
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.
According to a report in Inside Radio, the next FCC open meeting on December 12 is scheduled to bring its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to a vote seeking public recommendations on a variety of rules, including local radio ownership.
The National Association of Broadcasters requested that companies be allowed to own as many as 10 AM or FM stations in the biggest markets. The NAB advocated for allowing a company to own up to ten stations in the largest markets, with no limits on how many of those stations are FMs or AMs.
On December 12, the FCC will officially launch its latest ‘quadrennial’ review of broadcast ownership rules. The review is a congressional mandate.
In his monthly blog post, the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote: “On the media front, we’ll be kicking off a review of our media ownership rules — a review we’re required by statute to conduct every four years. The 2018 Quadrennial Review, as it’s called, will begin with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which seeks public input on the relevant rules, such as the Local Radio Ownership Rule, as well as several diversity-related proposals.”
The rules up for review are the local radio ownership rules, local TV ownership limits and the dual-network rule.
The Snyder administration is rescinding state rules in favor of making reference to the federal regulations when it comes to the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Administration (MIOSHA). The agency submitted 27 rules packages over the past few weeks that rescind various state rules in favor of the reference notation.
“The focus has not been on Michigan requirements that exceed federal OSHA requirements, but to replace Michigan specific rules and rule numbers with the equivalent federal language and rule numbers,” Jeannie Vogel, spokesperson for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), said.
“This will assist employers and employees in making the requirements in Michigan more consistent with the requirements in surrounding states, as well as federal OSHA.” According to LARA, the rule changes will not mean changes in health and safety requirements for employers.
The next Congress will mean new faces and perspectives and a switch to the Dem-controlled House of Representatives. The shift will have implications for several issues of importance to the broadcasters. Below you’ll find the NAB’s overview of the next Congressional Leadership and Committee Projections, including Energy and Commerce, Judiciary, Ways and Means and Finance committees.
U.S. Senate: 51 Republican, 46 Democrat; 3 undecided
Leadership: Not much change is expected in the Senate leadership lineups, with the exception of Sen. John Thune (R-SD). Thune will likely take the number two leadership position as Republican whip that needs to be vacated by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is term-limited. Sens. McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY) will likely maintain the top Senate leadership posts in their parties.
Commerce: Likely Chairman – Roger Wicker (MS); Likely Ranking Member – TBD
- Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) currently trails narrowly in a race that will likely head to a recount. Should he retain his seat, he will continue to serve as the committee’s ranking member. Should he be defeated, the top Democrat on the committee will likely be Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA).
- Election Night Losses: Dean Heller (NV).
Judiciary: Likely Chairman – Lindsay Graham (SC); Likely Ranking Member – Dianne Feinstein (CA)
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), the current chair, has not yet announced his decision to leave that post, but it is widely rumored that he will vacate it to take the Finance Committee gavel. Sen. Graham is his most likely successor. Sen. Graham will also be considered a lead contender to fill the now vacant Attorney General post. Should Sen. Graham step aside, Sen. Cornyn (TX) is the next most senior committee Republican.
- Election Night Losses: None.
Finance: Likely Chairman – Chuck Grassley (IA); Likely Ranking Member – Ron Wyden (OR)
- Should Sen. Grassley stay atop Judiciary, Sen. Mike Crapo (ID) would likely take the top Finance Republican spot.
- Election Night Losses: Claire McCaskill (MO).
Appropriations: Likely Chairman – Richard Shelby (AL); Likely RM – Patrick Leahy (VT)
- Election Night Losses: None.
Other significant losses: The retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) is a significant one for broadcasters, as is the Election Day loss of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (ND).
U.S. House of Representatives: 226 Democrat, 198 Republican; 11 undecided
Leadership: Leadership of both parties in the House is currently unclear. The most likely scenario for Democrats keeps the current structure in place, with Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) once again ascending to Speaker of the House, Steny Hoyer (MD-5) remaining in the number two slot as Majority Leader and Jim Clyburn (SC-6) occupying the role of Majority Whip. But these decisions will not be made until the week of November 28. A looming question is whether the influx of new blood resulting from last night’s election generates a more vocal call for younger party leaders. Even if Pelosi and Hoyer can head that off, expect them to deal with this pressure by bringing at least one representative of this new generation into their leadership team. Leading contenders will be Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-3), Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) and Cheri Bustos (IL-17), among others.
Republicans will elect their leadership next week with Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), the heavy favorite to ascend to the top position of Minority Leader, and Steve Scalise (LA-1), the favorite to take the number two slot in Republican leadership as Republican Whip. Jim Jordan (OH-4) will mount a bid to challenge Rep. McCarthy for Leader, although at this point that looks like a long shot. Of course, both parties are still grappling with the takeaways from Tuesday’s election, and that post-mortem could provide momentum for outside challengers in both caucuses.
Energy and Commerce: Likely Chairman – Frank Pallone (NJ-6); Likely Ranking Member – Greg Walden (OR-2)
- Election Night Losses: Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) to Senate, Kevin Cramer (ND-At large) to Senate.
Judiciary: Likely Chairman – Jerry Nadler (NY-10); Likely Ranking Member – Doug Collins (GA-9)
- Election Night Losses: Keith Rothfus (PA-17).
Ways and Means: Likely Chairman – Richard Neal (MA-1); Likely Ranking Member – Kevin Brady (TX-8)
- Election Night Losses: Peter Roskam (IL-6), Erik Paulsen (MN-3), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Mike Bishop (MI-8).
Appropriations: Likely Chairman – Nita Lowey (NY-17); Likely Ranking Member – TBD
- The race for the top Republican spot between Kay Granger (TX-12), Tom Graves (GA-14), Tom Cole (OK-4) and Robert Aderholt (AL-4) will be decided by the House Republican Steering Committee next week.
- Election Night Losses: John Culberson (TX-7), Kevin Yoder (KS-3), David Young (IA-3), Scott Taylor (VA-2).
Other significant losses: Speaker Paul Ryan is the most prominent House retiree this cycle, but he has a lot of company. House retirements hit our committees of interest hard, with Republican retirements and losses totaling at least six Energy and Commerce members; seven Judiciary members (with several others already having left and been replaced this Congress); 10 Ways and Means members and five appropriators. Only one Democrat is retiring from each of the first three committees, and no Democratic appropriator is retiring.
Representative Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) was elected to serve as a House Speaker and will lead the House Republican caucus in the 2019-20 term. Representative Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) will serve as Majority Floor Leader and Representative Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) as Speaker Pro Tempore.
House Democrats chose Minority Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) to lead the Democratic caucus in the 2019-20 term. Representative Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) will serve as Minority Floor Leader.
Senate Republican Caucus elected Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) as the new Senate Majority Leader for the next legislative term, replacing term-limited Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive). Senator Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford) was elected Majority Floor Leader and Senator-elect Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) was named President Pro Tempore. Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland) will serve as the Chair of Senate Appropriations.
Senate Democrats unanimously voted to re-elect Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) as Minority Leader and Senator-elect Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) as Minority Floor Leader. Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) will become the Minority Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.