Category Archives: Legislative Update

Second Window for AM Stations to Seek New FM Translators Opens on January 25

The FCC released the Public Notice outlining instructions for the final window for AM stations to get exclusive access to FM translator stations.  The window will be open January 25 through January 31. It is primarily for Class A and B AM stations that were not permitted to file in the summer’s window when Class C and D AM stations could file for new FM translators. But any AM licensee who did not file in this summer’s window, and who also did not acquire a translator last year during the period when AM licensees could acquire existing FM translators and move them up to 250 miles to rebroadcast their AM station, can also participate.

Part-Time Legislature Drive Mailing Out 100K Petitions

According to a report in Gongwer, Tom McMillin, the new co-chair of the part-time legislation petition drive, launched a new effort to collect the 315,654 needed signatures to place a constitutional question on the 2018 statewide ballot.

The effort included mailing out over 100,000 petitions to those on a mailing list with hopes that enough of them will sign one and send it back. The “Clean Michigan Government” effort is also recruiting circulators online and will continue to have paid circulators in the field as part of an effort to collect the signatures.

Michigan Taskforce Recommends Drones Use Limits to Legislature

A report issued by the Michigan drone task force recommends limiting the operation of drones around such areas as correctional facilities, tourist destinations and prominent bridges. The 27-member Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force (UASTF), which includes a member of the broadcast industry, was created earlier this year to form statewide policy on the operation and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems.  Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature will review the recommendations in the panel’s report.

“The UASTF recommends that the Legislature consider legislation that would prohibit interference with a key facility, as currently defined in statute with a UAS. This legislation should include no specific airspace restriction, but rather a prohibition on a certain conduct such as ‘interference’ or similarly defined term,” the task force’s report states.

The report also contains 13 recommendations, including the creation of an Unmanned Aerial System Joint Program Office, developing education and outreach strategies and expanding the American Center for Mobility to include unmanned aircraft. The panel’s report said it worked to balance safety needs while respecting the Federal Aviation Administration’s authority over airspace.

Copyright Royalty Board Announces Rate Increases for Webcasts

According to a report from Inside Radio, broadcasters will have to pay higher royalty fees for streaming in the next year.

The Copyright Royalty Board has announced the rates will increase 5.9 percent to $0.0018 per performance for non-subscription based webcasts like those offered by broadcast radio stations. Rates for non-interactive subscription services will rise 4.5 percent to $0.0023 per performance according to the Federal Register published on November 27.

A special discounted rate remains for noncommercial webcasters as long as they do not exceed 159,140 Aggregate Tuning Hours (ATH) in a given month on a station or single stream.

December FCC Meeting Important for Broadcasters

According to the Broadcast Law blog, the FCC released an agenda for the agency’s December meeting.

One of the main items of interest to the broadcasters is the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, looking to determine if the FCC should amend the cap limiting one TV station owner to stations reaching no more than 39 percent of the national audience. The FCC asks a series of questions, including whether it has the power to change the cap, or if the power is exclusively that of Congress.

Also on the agency’s agenda is a proposal for the Modernization of Media Regulation, looking at whether the FCC should change some of the requirements on cable operators and other MVPDs for giving written notice to customers about changes in their operations. Additionally, the FCC is looking to adopt a new event code for its EAS system – a Blue Alert to notify the public of an imminent threat to law enforcement personnel. Read more here.

FCC To Review Ownership Caps

According to the NAB’s SmartBriefs, the FCC formally initiated a notice of proposed rule-making to review the national ownership cap for TV stations that limits the number of stations a single entity can own, which is now set at 39 percent of U.S. TV households.

The review of the ownership cap is tied to another decision made by FCC chairman Ajit Pai – the UHF discount — a formula for calculating a company’s TV station holdings against the 39 percent limit — was reinstated by Pai in April after it was eliminated by the previous FCC chair.

“Earlier this year, the Commission reinstated the UHF discount, finding that the prior FCC’s decision last year to eliminate it absent a simultaneous review of the 39 percent national cap effectively tightened the cap without determining whether that was in the public interest. Because the national cap and the UHF discount are inextricably linked, any review of one component of the rule must include a review of the other,” Pai said in a statement.

FCC To Vote on Blue Alerts

According to a report in Inside Radio, the FCC is getting ready to approve the creation of Blue Alerts. The agency scheduled a vote next month that will create the new Emergency Alert System (EAS) code “BLU” which will be similar to codes for civic emergencies and weather events.

The code would give state and local emergency management agencies the option of using the EAS to issue a warning about an imminent and credible threat to police officers’ safety  across TV and radio stations.

Three years ago Congress passed the Blue Alert Act to “encourage, enhance, and integrate Blue Alert plans” nationwide with the Justice Department coordinating the effort. To date, 27 states have adopted a Blue Alert program on their own, including Michigan, which adopted the program in October 2015.

SoundExchange Royalties Going Up for Webcasters in 2018

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,

The Copyright Royalty Board announced in the Federal Register, here, that the sound recording royalty rates paid to SoundExchange will be increasing next year.  In December 2015, when the CRB set the current royalty rates that apply from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020 (see our articles here and here), the CRB noted that the rates would increase based on increases in the Consumer Price Index. Last year, the Board determined that the CPI had not increased enough to merit an increase in the royalties. This year, based on the calculations set out in the Federal Register, there will in fact be an increase.

So, for all streaming in 2018, nonsubscription webcasters will pay a per performance royalty of $.0018 instead of this year’s $.0017. For subscription streams, the rate will increase to $.0023, an increase from $.0022 per performance rate. These rates apply to all noninteractive webcasters who pay the statutory royalty (see our article here for an explanation of the difference between noninteractive and interactive webcasters). Thus, the rate increase will include simulcasts of broadcasters’ over-the-air programming.  Noncommercial webcasters who exceed 159,140 aggregate monthly tuning hours (for which they pay $500 per year) will also pay at the $.0018 rate for performances above the tuning hour limit.

Note that these rates apply through the end of 2020. As the CRB proceedings take two years to arrive at new rates, the Board will be starting a new proceeding to determine royalty rates for 2021 through the end of 2025 starting in January 2019. It’s never too early to start thinking about the next proceeding now.

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.

Group Submits Signatures for Prevailing Wage Repeal

Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, a group seeking a voter-initiated act to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law, announced that it has submitted over 380,000 signatures of registered voters to put its proposal before the Legislature.

Michigan’s current prevailing wage law requires the payment of union-scale wages on public construction projects.

The Department of State’s Bureau of Elections will take 60 days to review a sample of signatures to determine whether the group gathered at least the necessary 252,523 valid signatures from registered voters.

If it succeeded, the initiative will go to the Legislature, which will have 40 days to pass it. While Gov. Rick Snyder indicated his support for the prevailing wage and said he would veto a bill repealing it, he cannot stop a voter-initiated act passed by the Legislature under Michigan’s Constitution.