Category Archives: Legislative Update

FCC Releases Post-Auction Relocation List

According to a report from TVNewsCheck, the FCC has released details on the incentive auction results. Over $10 billion will be awarded to 175 winning broadcasters that elected to participate in the incentive auction. According to the FCC, 957 stations that did not participate in the auction will have to change channels.

The first set of stations to repack is scheduled for November 30, 2018. Stations are required to provide 30 days’ notice. The agency is offering information for over-the-air viewers on how to “rescan” their receivers to find new channels on their website here.

The auction raised $19.8 billion. Of that, over $10 billion will go to 175 winning broadcasters that elected to participate in the incentive auction. Of the winners, 30 stations will receive money for agreeing to move to a lower channel, 133 will relinquish their licenses and indicate their intent to remain on air through channel-sharing agreements with non-winning stations.

A full list of channel reassignments is available here. (Excel file download)

Full list of the winning stations is available here.

See the MAB NewsBriefs story on affected Michigan stations here.

State Senator Working on Bills to Block ISPs, Search Engines from Selling Info

Rick Jones
Sen. Rick Jones (R-24)

Senator Rick Jones (R-24) announced that he is working on legislation to protect the privacy of Michigan residents using the internet in light of the federal government’s recent actions to repeal internet privacy rules.  The rules would have required internet service providers to get consent before using or selling certain data for targeted advertising.

Jones requested two bills to be drafted that would: (1) block internet service providers from selling personal information without residents’ permission, and (2) stop search engines from doing the same. Data protected by the bills includes web browsing history, app usage history, geo location and financial and medical information. “In today’s digital economy, consumer information can be valuable and – if in the wrong hands – can be dangerous,” Jones said in a press release. “In the marketplace of information, each Michigan resident deserves the ability to have a say about what kind of data about them is being collected and sold. That is what my bills will do.”

FCC to Change Noncommercial Ownership Form

Commission to eliminate need for social security numbers from board members of noncommercial licensees for Biennial Ownership Report.

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

Last week, we wrote about two of the three broadcast items to be considered at the FCC meeting on April 20. We wrote here about the draft order to restore the UHF discount and here about the relaxation of the restrictions on fund-raising for third parties by noncommercial stations. The third item, also related to noncommercial licensees, is the resolution of the long-simmering dispute about whether or not to require that those individuals with attributable interests in noncommercial broadcast stations – officers and board members – to provide their Social Security Numbers or other personal information to the FCC to obtain an FCC Registration Number – an FRN. The draft order released last week indicates that the FCC will eliminate that requirement at its April 20 meeting.

The obligation to obtain an FRN was adopted so that the FCC could comprehensively track the ownership of broadcast stations and determine the interests of individual parties across the broadcast media nationwide. This was principally done for purposes of assessing the diversity of ownership of the media – including by minorities and women. By making each attributable owner get their own FRN, interests across the broadcast media landscape could be tracked with greater precision. However, objections were raised when the FCC proposed to apply this obligation to noncommercial broadcasters, requiring that officers and board members provide their Social Security Number or other personal information to obtain an FRN. Despite these objections, the previous Commission ordered noncommercial broadcasters to provide this information, going so far as to suggest that attributable interest holders who did not provide the information necessary to obtain an FRN could be sanctioned. See our articles here and here. The current FCC under Chairman Pai rescinded the decision of the Media Bureau upholding the obligation (see our post here) – leading to the draft order to be considered at the April 20 meeting.

Noncommercial broadcasters have argued that this information is not as necessary as for commercial broadcasters in assessing diversity, as noncommercial stations don’t have owners in the traditional sense of the word. Their officers and board members don’t have an economic interest in the business success of the station. In fact, those with attributable interests in noncommercial stations often don’t become officers or directors because they are interested in radio or television at all, but instead because they are interested in a noncommercial entity’s broader purpose. For instance, a member of the board of a state university may become a board member because of his or her interest in some academic department, or because of the athletic teams at the university and not even know when appointed to the board that among the university’s holdings is a broadcast station. Some board members may become members by being an elected official – e.g. state governors are often ex-officio members of state university boards. The fear is that, by requiring that these individuals provide personally sensitive information, they may be discouraged from participating in these nonprofit endeavors. A majority of the current Commission appears to have accepted that reasoning and has now teed up the concept of allowing noncommercial stations to obtain Special Use FRNs (“SUFRN”) for these individuals – which will not require personally identifiable information or Social Security Numbers.

The FCC did note, however, that these individuals need to use the same SUFRN for any broadcast interests that they may have. So if an individual sits on the board of multiple broadcast licensees (e.g. the governor of a state who may be on the board of several state universities that are the licensee of broadcast stations), that individual must provide the same SUFRN to each licensee. Also, if an attributable party has an interest in a commercial broadcast station and obtains an FRN in connection with the ownership report of that station, they need to use that FRN on the ownership report of the noncommercial licensee. Noncommercial licensees thus will still need to survey their officers and board members to make sure that they don’t have other broadcast interests and to coordinate with other licensees in state systems to make sure that the same SUFRN is used.

Biennial ownership reports for all stations, commercial and noncommercial, are due on December 1 of this year, reporting on the ownership of the licensee as of October 1. While this order, if adopted on April 20, will make information collection easier for noncommercial licensees, they should still start planning their information collection process for getting information about the broadcast interests of board members in time for the December 1 deadline.

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 membership.

Another Performance Royalty Bill Introduced

Congressman Darrel Issa (R-CA) has once again introduced performance royalty legislation that would require radio stations to pay fees to the record labels to play their songs. In response, the NAB issued the following statement:

“NAB has significant concerns with this legislation that would upend the music licensing framework that currently enables broadcasters to serve local communities across the country and would result in less music being played on the radio to the detriment of listeners and artists. NAB thanks the almost 200 Members of Congress who support the Local Radio Freedom Act and recognize the tremendous benefits of free, promotional airplay for musicians and labels.”

In Michigan, Congressmen Fred Upton (R-6), Tim Walberg (R-7), Paul Mitchell (R-10) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12) cosponsored the Local Radio Freedom Act.

MAB Washington Counsel David Oxenford discusses both, this most recent royalty bill and an older proposal, here.

Snyder Signs Bill to Protect Proprietary Info in Bidding

Governor Rick Snyder

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation sponsored by Senator Rick Jones (R-24), to ensure that all companies compete on an equal playing field when bidding for a public contract with the State of Michigan.

Senate Bill 69, now Public Act 21 of 2017, exempts a bid, quote, or proposal involved in a procurement process from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), until the final notification is received that the contract has been awarded.

“Before this change, vendors could unfairly use FOIA to find out how much money the state can spend on a particular project and also look at bids from their competitors before a final decision has been made,” said Senator Jones. The new act also exempts trade secrets and financial or proprietary information from FOIA. Jones said that many businesses are refusing to participate in the procurement process in Michigan because they fear that their trade secrets or financial information will be compromised.

Filing Deadline Reminder

By April 10, 2017, all commercial and noncommercial radio and television stations must prepare a list of important issues facing their communities of license, and the programs aired during January, February and March dealing with those issues.

All TV stations and radio stations in the top 50 markets with five or more full-time employees must post these documents to the FCC’s online public file database. All other radio stations must place these documents in their local public inspection files. Also by April 10, all commercial full power and Class A TV stations must file the Children’s Programming Report on FCC Form 398 for the first quarter of 2017.

Pai Expected to Announce Ownership Rule Changes

Ajit Pai
Ajit Pai

According to NAB SmartBriefs, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is expected to release a proposal that would reverse the elimination of the UHF discount in calculating the audience reach of TV station owners. The proposed change is expected to go before the FCC in April and could lead to a series of mergers if the discount is reinstated. MAB is following.

Read more on the proposed ownership changes from David Oxenford here.

Performance Tax Reintroduced

According to a report in InsideRadio, supporters of a performance royalty on AM/FM airplay have introduced legislation in Congress that would require stations to pay a fee on music they use for over-the-air broadcasts. Introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ‘Fair Play Fair Pay’ Act would create a performance right on AM/FM airplay which Nadler says would put broadcasters on “equal footing” with internet and satellite radio services.

Like proposals made in the past, this bill would offer a carve-out for small stations with less than $1 million in annual revenue. Those stations would pay a flat $500 per-year royalty rate if the station operates commercially.

Whitmer Selects Campaign Manager

Gretchen Whitmer
Gretchen Whitmer

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer has selected Jerid Kurtz as her campaign manager. Kurtz worked on a number of Democratic campaigns around the country, most recently as campaign manager to U.S. Representative Ami Bera (D-CA). He was the communications director for the unsuccessful Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014, is a former communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party and served as a press secretary to U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH).