Category Archives: Legislative Update

Congress Passes Bill on FCC Rule Publication

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the FCC Reform bill. This week, the legislation was passed by the full U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, HR 2589, introduced by Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC) requires the FCC to publish rule changes on the same day as they are adopted and publish the changes to its website no later than 24 hours after their adoption.

Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said, “Improving the process at the FCC so that it operates in an effective and transparent manner holds the FCC accountable and targets their struggle to make its newly adopted rules available to the public in a timely fashion.”

Must Read: A Broadcaster’s Guide to the U.S. Department of Labor’s New Overtime Exemption Requirements

By:  Julia E. Judish, Scott R. Flick, and Jessica Nyman
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor published final regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) that more than doubled the minimum salary level necessary to be exempt from the Act’s overtime rules. While the changes affect all businesses subject to the FLSA, broadcasters in particular may feel the impact of the changes given the staffing models used by many TV and radio stations. The new requirements will go into effect on December 1, 2016, and broadcasters need to take steps to adapt to, and minimize the impact of, those changes prior to that deadline.

Download the eight-page guide (PDF) here.

FCC Moves to Drop Two Public File Rules

fcc-logo_dark-blueAccording to a report in TVNewsCheck, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed to eliminate two public file inspection rules. The rules currently mandate that:

• Commercial television and radio broadcast stations to retain, and make available to the public, copies of correspondence from viewers and listeners; and
• Cable operators to maintain and allow public inspection of the location of a cable system’s principal headend.

The commission says removing these requirements will allow broadcasters and cable operators to make their entire public inspection file available online and permit them to stop maintaining local public files. The agency maintains that modernizing the filing process will make it easier for consumers to access information about their broadcast services without having to travel to the station’s main studio and reduce the cost of broadcaster compliance.

FCC Proposes FY 2016 Regulatory Fee Schedule

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released proposed fiscal year 2016 regulatory fee schedule. The agency is looking to collect the $384,012,497 with $133.97 million coming from radio and television stations. The new schedule adds a class for radio broadcasters who serve 3,000,001-6,000,000 people, and sets fees on a standardized incremental increase scale as the population served by the licensees increases. The fees range from $690 for a Class C AM in areas serving under 25,000 in population to $17,175 for FM Classes B, C, C0, C1, and C2 for stations serving over 6 million in population.

See the full proposed schedule here.

Committee Approves Bills, Opening Legislative, Governor Records

capitol3A package of bills creating the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) and extending FOIA provisions to the Governor’s office was unanimously approved by the House Oversight and Ethics Committee.

There were a couple key changes. Lawmakers added language empowering the administrator of the Legislative Council to recommend disciplinary action to the Speaker of the House or the majority leader of the Senate if the administrator determines that the House or Senate charged an excessive fee or failed to disclose the information on a timely basis. The bills now go to the full House Chamber for a vote.

FCC Publishes Final List of Spectrum Auction Bidder Applicants

On May 12, the FCC released a public notice announcing the complete and incomplete applications for the forward auction. The forward auction will see wireless carriers and other participants bid on spectrum in the 600 megahertz (MHz) band relinquished by TV broadcasters. It is scheduled to launch two days after the close of the reverse auction, which starts May 31.

Webinar: Online Public Files…Radio, You’re up Next!

WebinarThursday, June 2 at 1pm Eastern
Presented by David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

The FCC has just announced the effective date of the new rules requiring that radio stations maintain their public files in the FCC’s online public file system. The June 24 deadline is only for top 50 market stations at this time; however, we anticipate that eventually all stations will be required to have their public file available online.

David Oxenford - ColorD.C. Attorney David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, in Washington, will join us online to explain the new requirements.

While the new rules will initially apply only to stations in the Top 50 markets that operate in clusters with five or more full-time employees, all stations may want to listen in as some may be interested in making their conversion early. Even if they do not, all stations will need to fully comply by March 1, 2018, except for those who seek and obtain a waiver of the rules.

The session will discuss: what documents need to be placed in the files, the timing for compliance, and the potential for waivers.

This Webex meeting is FREE for MAB members!
Register here.

FCC Announces Effective Dates for Radio Online Public File Requirements

The MAB is presenting a FREE webinar on this topic for members on Thursday, June 2 at 1pm.  For more information, click here.

According to the FCC, commercial radio broadcasters in the top 50 Nielsen markets, with five or more full-time employees, must start using the FCC’s new online public inspection file on Friday, June 24. This date has been set based on the FCC’s intention to publish the new rule in the Federal Register on May 25, with the effective date being 30 days after that. New documents must go into the online file right away; older existing documents will be due for online posting within six months after the effective date.

All non-commercial educational radio broadcast stations, commercial radio broadcast stations in the top 50 Nielsen markets with fewer than five full-time employees, and all commercial radio broadcast stations in markets below the top 50 or outside all markets will be exempt until March 1, 2017. Letters and emails from the public must still be retained by all commercial broadcast licensees but are not to be uploaded to the online file.

House Approves Bill Blocking Petition Signatures Older Than 180 Days

capitol3Last week, Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve Senate Bill 776. This legislation prohibits the state from counting signatures older than 180 days that were collected for ballot proposals and constitutional amendments. SB 776 passed 57-52 over the objection of Democrats. The bill now goes to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

This means that, beginning immediately, petition signatures for constitutional amendments or initiated legislation collected 180 days before the proposals are turned into the state will not count. Backers of one of the marijuana legalization proposals have been pushing for the change to allow signatures older than 180 days.

House Minority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) offered two amendments to put 2017 as the enacting year for the legislation so the current ballot proposals would not be affected, but the amendment failed.

FCC Announces Details of May 24 Reverse Auction Workshop

fcc-logo_dark-blueAccording to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC released a Public Notice outlining the agenda for the May 24 workshop to explain the process of bidding in the reverse auction. The May 24 Workshop will be held at the FCC’s offices and will also be streamed live on the Internet . The workshop, scheduled from 10 AM to 1 PM Eastern, will cover the process for bidding and will review the bidding software itself. Prior to the workshop, an online tutorial will be available that includes an overview of the bidding software and a review of the bidding procedures that bidders should understand in order to participate in the auction.