Category Archives: Legislative Update

Hoadley To Challenge Upton in 6th Congressional District

State Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-60)

State Representative Jon Hoadley (D-60) announced he is running for the 6th Congressional House District in Michigan which is currently held by Congressman Fred Upton (R-6). Upton held this seat since 1986.

Traditionally, Michigan’s 6th Congressional is a Republican seat; however, Upton’s 2018 win was very close: 50.2 percentage compared to 45.7 percent of the vote for the Democratic challenger.

Hoadley currently serves as the minority vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee. He is in his third term in the House, so he cannot seek re-election for the 60th House District in 2020.

FCC Seeks Comments on Proposal to Allow All-Digital AM Radio Transmission

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

On April 11, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing the receipt of the Petition for Rulemaking asking that the FCC allow AM stations the option to operate an all-digital facility. We wrote about that Petition here. Currently, AM digital operations are allowed only in a hybrid mode – where the station transmits both an analog and a digital signal. Proponents of the all-digital operation argue that the full digital operation allows for better reception and increased stability of the transmission, and submit that it is time for stations that are willing to transmit in this better system to be allowed to do so without having to seek experimental authority – the only way in which an all-digital AM transmission is now allowed.

Some have suggested that, in order for the FCC to move this proposal forward on a timely basis, industry support is needed. Comments on this Petition for Rulemaking, specifically seeking comments on allowing operation in the MA3 All-Digital Mode of HD Radio, are due on May 13. If you are interested in having the option to operate an all-digital AM station, comments urging the FCC to move forward on this Petition should be filed by that deadline. Once comments are received, the FCC will consider them and, if they sense enough industry support, they will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking additional comments on rules for implementing this proposal. FCC approval for an all-digital AM service will not happen overnight, but this Public Notice and the comments due in May are certainly the first step in this evolution of AM radio.

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.

Huizenga Adds Name to Local Radio Freedom Act

Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-2

The Local Radio Freedom Act (LRFA), a resolution to oppose “any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charge” on local broadcast radio stations, now has 158 cosponsors in the House and 18 in the Senate. The Resolution is expected to garner broad bipartisan support, as in the previous Congress where it attracted nearly 260 cosponsors.

In Michigan, Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-2) is the latest lawmaker to cosponsor the LRFA. Additionally, the following Michigan lawmakers continue to support their local radio broadcasters by signing on as cosponsors: Congressman Fred Upton (R-6), Congressman Tim Walberg (R-7), Congressman Paul Mitchell (R-10), and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12). The MAB appreciates the support of these lawmakers as we fight to oppose any new taxes on radio.

Comment Deadline on FCC’S Ownership Rules Review

Comments are due April 29 in the FCC’s Quadrennial Review of its ownership rules. The reply comments are due May 29. The FCC is looking at several issues, including the rules setting out the limits on the number of radio stations that one company can own in a market.

On the TV side, the agency is looking at local TV ownership, specifically combinations of Top 4 stations in a market and shared services agreements, and also at the dual network rule restricting common ownership of two of the Top 4 TV networks. In addition, the FCC is reviewing ideas on how to increase diversity in broadcast ownership.

Attorney General Calls for Expanded Authority in Data Breach Bill

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel spoke in favor of the legislation to require companies to inform the state residents of data breaches. She stated that HBs 4186-4187 should go farther and require the Attorney General’s office to be notified in case of a data breach as well. HBs 4186-4187 were referred to House ways and Means on unanimous votes by the Financial Services committee.

The bills require that a company notify the state of a data breach within 45 days. It also requires companies to protect personal information, and to investigate both potential and actual breaches.

Snyder Joins Kasich Policy Committee

Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Michigan’s former Governor Rick Snyder has been named to a national advisory committee for Two Paths America, a center-right public policy organization founded in 2017 by former Ohio Governor John Kasich with the goal to “promote center-right solutions to some of the major issues facing our nation,” according to the committee’s website.

In addition to Kasich and Snyder, the advisory committee includes former Republican governors of California and New Jersey as well as former U.S. House members from Virginia, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

Regulatory Issues from the NAB Convention

License Renewals, ATSC 3.0, Translator Interference, Ownership Rules, and Children’s TV

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

Questions about regulations from Washington don’t disappear just because you are spending time in Las Vegas, and last week’s NAB Convention brought discussion of many such issues. We’ll write about the discussion of antitrust issues that occurred during several sessions at the Convention in another post. But, today, we will report on news about more imminent actions on other issues pending before the FCC.

In his address to broadcasters at the conference, FCC Chairman Pai announced that the order on resolving translator interference complaints has been written and is now circulating among the Commissioners for review. The order is likely to be adopted at the FCC’s May meeting. We wrote here about the many suggestions on how to resolve complaints from full-power stations about interference from FM translators. While the Chairman did not go into detail on how the matter will be resolved, he did indicate that one proposal was likely to be adopted – that which would allow a translator that is allegedly causing interference to the regularly used signal of a full-power broadcast station to move to any open FM channel to resolve the interference. While that ability to change channels may not resolve all issues, particularly in urban areas where there is little available spectrum, it should be helpful in many other locations.

At another session, FCC Audio Division officials talked about the upcoming license renewal cycle. They announced that the renewal forms will be filed in the FCC’s LMS database, which was first used by radio broadcasters in connection with their Biennial Ownership Reports filed last year. The forms themselves will likely be available for completion on or before May 1 for the June 3 filing deadline for radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Watch for an FCC public notice next week providing more details on the forms and filing requirements. And, in the interim, make sure that your online public file is complete and up-to-date (including the Quarterly Issues Programs lists – which, for the first quarter of 2019, should have been uploaded to the online public file no later than yesterday), as the online file will likely be reviewed by the FCC during the license renewal process. See our articles here and here on these issues.

On the TV side, the FCC said that the forms for filing for ATSC 3.0 facilities should be available shortly, so that applications can be accepted before the end of the quarter. At the conference, a consortium of stations pushing the ATSC 3.0 standard announced that they will be rolling out the new standard in 60 markets early in 2020.

Revisions to the children’s television rules relating to the amount of required educational and informational programming for children are also being considered. However, no time frame for the exact date by which any changes will be adopted was given. See our article here about the FCC’s pending review of the Children’s television rules.

The FCC Commissioners also discussed the current Quadrennial Review of the ownership rules – the proposed changes to the local radio ownership rules were a particular topic of conversation. See our post here on what changes to those rules are being discussed. All three Republican Commissioners made statements that the ownership rules need to reflect current marketplace realities. But it was also pointed out, particularly by the newest FCC Commissioner, Commissioner Starks, that the FCC principles of localism, competition and diversity need to be considered in any analysis of the ownership rules. Deadline for initial comments in the new Quadrennial Review is April 29.

These were but some of the legal issues discussed at the Convention. Clearly, no one wants to gamble on their regulatory future – so pay attention to the FCC decisions on these important upcoming matters.

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 Order Addresses TV White Spaces

On March 20, the FCC released an order addressing rule changes for TV white spaces devices.

The order requires TV white spaces devices to incorporate an automatic geolocation capability to ensure that the TV white spaces database has accurate location information for all devices.

The order is designed to create a more accurate database and significantly decrease the potential harm that TV white space operations can cause to TV operations going forward.