Category Archives: Legislative Update

Michigan Congresswoman Co-sponsors $15 Minimum Wage Legislation

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-11

U.S. Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-11) co-sponsored legislation in Washington D.C. to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

“American workers are more productive than ever, and they deserve better,” she said. “This is about recognizing the value of work. Anyone who works full-time in the richest country on earth should earn enough money to stay out of poverty, and this legislation will ensure that a living wage is the law of the land.”

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. In Michigan, it’s $9.25 an hour.

MAB and CMU Deliver State of the State Across Michigan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

On February 12, the MAB with much assistance from CMU Public Media, delivered live coverage of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State address to member stations throughout the state.

The broadcast covered every DMA market in Michigan. Overall, 29 commercial and public radio stations and 28 commercial and public TV stations carried MAB’s satellite feed.

With Tuesday’s snowstorm, there were some rattled nerves that morning as to whether the CMU uplink would make it to Lansing.  With just a slight delay, the truck arrived and the satellite feed was set to go by the first test at 2:30 p.m.

Special thanks go out to CMU Public Media General Manager Ken Kolbe, Operations Supervisor Shawn Hoskey and Maintenance Supervisor Daryl Vanderhoof for their assistance with the uplink;  WKAR Public Media Television Director of Engineeing Gary Blievernicht for assistance with booking satellite time; and MPRN and Michigan Radio for making their radio feed available to both commercial and non-commercial stations throughout the state.

The Governor’s speech has been archived on the MAB website here.

Pai: Repack Moving Ahead of Schedule

Ajit Pai

According to a report in TV Technology, FCC Chairman Pai delivered a progress report about the post-spectrum auction channel repack at the annual meeting of the National Association of Tower Erectors. He stated that “great progress” was made since work began in April 2017 and added that the transition, which affects approximately 1,000 full-power and Class A television broadcasters and about 2,000 low-power and translator television stations, is “ahead of schedule.”

“The limited availability of tower crews capable of doing this work was a big factor in our transition planning from the start,” he said. “We designed a phased transition schedule that allows both tower companies and equipment manufacturers to prioritize stations in early phases and to strategically allocate resources. We built in flexibility to make adjustments so that safety is never compromised.” Pai said that a total of $2.75 billion (including an additional $1 billion authorized by Congress last year) is available to reimburse broadcasters for repack costs, with more than $350 million already approved for reimbursements.

FEC Seeks Comment on Proposal for Change in TV Political Disclosures

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

We usually think of the FCC as the agency that sets the details of the broadcast disclosure obligations for political candidate’s TV ads. But the Federal Election Commission has its own rules for political advertising that are binding on the candidates, rather than on the stations. But because these ads run on broadcast stations, stations need to pay attention to them to avoid getting caught up in arguments about whether candidate ads are legal, and because the FEC rules often get adopted by the FCC. For these reasons, broadcasters need to pay attention to an entry in today’s Federal Register, where the FEC gives notice of its receipt of a Petition for Rulemaking proposing changes to the textual disclosures made in TV political ads.

Right now, the written disclosures of the sponsor of political ads need to run at 4% of vertical picture height for not less than 4 seconds – the same requirement reflected in both the FEC and FCC rules. The proposal on which the FEC seeks comment suggests that the screen height requirements in the current rules are outdated in the digital television world. According to the Petition, current industry guidelines for a normal disclaimer size is 22 pixels (approximately 2% of the vertical picture height) using HD resolution. Thus, the Petition suggests that 2% be adopted as the standard for political disclosures when shown on high definition digital television transmissions, with the 4% obligation being retained for standard definition broadcasts. After receiving comments, the FEC will decide whether to commence a formal rulemaking proceeding. Comments on this proposal are due on or before Monday, April 15, 2019.

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.

Congressman John Dingell: 1926-2019

MAB Says Goodbye to a Dear Friend: Congressman John Dingell Passes at Age 92.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr., former Michigan Congressman and longest-serving member of the United States Congress,” the office of his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, said in a statement. “Congressman Dingell died peacefully today at his home in Dearborn, surrounded by his wife Deborah. He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend. He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth.”

The Congressman passed away the evening of February 7.

Dingell served in the House of Representatives for 59 years and 22 days, from 1955 to 2015. According to the House historian’s office, he served with 11 presidents and cast 28,551 votes. Of that time, he served on the Energy and Commerce Committee for nearly 58 years, making Dingell the longest serving member on any congressional committee. He served as chairman of the committee for more than 15 years.

“Congressman John Dingell was a one of a kind statesman. He served this nation well and was true to his convictions. He was a good friend to broadcasters and deeply believed in the first amendment and the value of the 4th Estate. We would meet with him often and he was always straight with us,” said MAB President Karole White. “He loved to discuss policy. He had a knowledge of telecommunication issues that was remarkable. Whether or not we agreed, we came away from our meetings with a more in depth perspective of all sides of an issues. Our most sincere condolences to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and the family. We are all sad today.”

In 2014, Congressman Dingle was honored by the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters (MAPB) during ceremonies at The Grand Hotel, Mackinaw Island for his contributions to public broadcasting.  Below is a tribute video played during ceremonies.

DOJ to Look at the Impact of Digital Ads on Broadcast Advertising

According to the report in Broadcasting & Cable, the Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust division has announced a two-day conference to discuss whether the agency should consider the effect of online advertising in its merger reviews. The agency said that broadcasters during the merger reviews raised important questions about competing with Google and other digital platforms, about how the advertising market has changed and how that should be factored into the merger analysis.

In response to the news, the NAB issued the following statement: “NAB strongly endorses a holistic review of Justice Department guidelines related to the local advertising market,” said spokesman Dennis Wharton. “The idea that local broadcasting should continue to be viewed as a discrete advertising market under which radio and TV stations only compete amongst themselves for ad dollars is archaic.”

Whitmer Signs Directive Strengthening FOIA Requirements for State Departments

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

According to a report in MLive, Governor Whitmer announced an executive directive to strengthen state agencies’ procedures relating to the Freedom of Information Act requests and make them more user- friendly. The directive designates a transparency liaison within state departments and agencies to facilitate public records requests, encouraging requests to be fulfilled by or before the deadline and prohibiting text communication conducting business during public meetings.

The directive also tasks the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to create an online system for public notices and records, and encourages live-streaming of state public meetings.

Barnes Elected Michigan Democratic Party Chair

Lavora Barnes

Last week, Michigan Democrats elected Lavora Barnes as the party’s new chair. Barnes, who was the party’s COO, was the favorite to win the race against three other candidates. She succeeds Brandon Dillon, who decided not to run again. Barnes is the second woman to chair the party, the first was Olivia Maynard from 1979-83.

She is the second African-American to chair the Michigan Democratic party – Butch Hollowell was the first but was in a joint-chair position with long-time chair Mark Brewer following the 2002 election.

Important Dates for Broadcasters in 2019 – A Broadcaster’s Calendar

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

While the shutdown of the Federal government delayed FCC activities in January, with the government back in business (hopefully for the long term), we have put together a Calendar of Important Dates for Broadcasters for 2019, available here. The calendar highlights normal regulatory dates like those for Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports, Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Quarterly Children’s Television Reports and Biennial Ownership Reports, it also includes dates relevant to the repacking of the TV spectrum and, something that we have not seen in the last 5 years, dates relevant to the radio license renewal cycle that begins this year. We also have the December start dates for the lowest unit rate windows for the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary. While this is not a comprehensive list of all regulatory dates that a broadcaster can expect, and while there can be some changes in these dates as the year goes on, it does provide a start keeping you on top of your regulatory burdens. Obviously, consult your own counsel for dates that affect your own station.

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.

Michigan State of State Address This Tuesday Night

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first State of the State Address is this coming Tuesday, February 12. 

The MAB is offering a pool feed of the address for both TV and radio.  The MAB TV feed will be unhosted, allowing your anchors to introduce and conclude the broadcast.

We encourage all TV stations to take the raw feed and carry the address live over the air and on your website if you can. The feed from the Capitol will be closed-captioned.  Prefeeds of the GOP response will also be fed during two test periods and will also be closed-captioned.

The MAB will be providing radio with anchored coverage from the Michigan Public Radio Network (produced by Michigan Radio).  The radio broadcast will be 90 minutes in length.  The broadcast will be available to commercial stations via web stream on the MAB website.

TECHNICAL DETAILS ARE HERE

We want to start off the term of the new Governor on the right track showing our commitment. We also hope you will carry the pre-recorded Republican response which will be fed before and after the address so you may record it and play it following the Governor’s address or at a more convenient time. Your audience will be interested in the Governor’s first State of the State address.

The administration will be looking for ways to fund their aggressive agenda in the new budget. We do not want a tax on services that includes advertising. Showing the administration the strength of the Michigan Broadcasting industry and our reach is vital to our advocacy efforts.

If you are unable to carry the State of the State Address on one of your channels, you may record and tape delay it to be played at a more convenient time. We are trying to get at least one TV and one radio station in each market to carry it live.

Stations interested in the broadcast who have not yet responded to a survey invite can state their interest here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TS2GNRH