Category Archives: Legislative Update

FCC Votes to Eliminate Main Studio Rule

On October 24,  the FCC voted 3-2 to eliminate the almost eight-decade old requirement that radio and television broadcasters maintain a main studio in or near their community of license.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had said it had become outdated because in the digital age the community has access and can engage with stations via social media or email without having a physical studio nearby.

He also said maintaining a physical address is an expense better put to other uses, like adding more local programming. Broadcasters have said that expense can range from $20,000 a year to several hundred thousand dollars.

Despite elimination of the studio requirement, stations are still required to have a local, toll-free telephone number and to maintain any portion of their public files that are not online at a publicly accessible location within their community of license.

Dennis Wharton, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications ,released a statement, saying,” NAB supports elimination of the main studio rule, which has outlived its usefulness in an era of mobile news gathering and multiple content delivery platforms. We’re confident that cost savings realized from ending the main studio rule will be reinvested by broadcasters in better programming and modernized equipment to better serve our local communities. We applaud the FCC for continuing to remove unnecessary and outdated broadcast regulations.”

The order will go into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Updates on Legislative Races:

The MAB will continue to offer this segment in the News Briefs as new candidates announce their intentions.

  • Former Representative Jeff Irwin announced he will seek election to the 18th Senate District next year, with the seat currently held by term-limited Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor).
  • House Majority Floor Leader Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) announced his campaign for the 25th Senate District in 2018’s election, with the seat currently held by term-limited Senator Phil Pavlov (R-Saint Clair).
  • Former U.S. Representative Kerry Bentivolio announced that he will seek election to U.S. House District 11 in 2018 as a Republican.
  • Democrat Jocelyn Benson announced her intent to run for Secretary of State last week, having previously been the party’s candidate in 2010.
  • Representative Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) announced his campaign for the 11th Congressional House District last week.
  • Representative Laura Cox (R-Livonia) has announced she will run for the 7th Senate District in 2018, with the seat currently held by term-limited Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp).

House Committee Approves Critical Infrastructure FOIA Exemption

Legislation exempting critical cybersecurity data from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was unanimously reported from the Michigan House Communications and Technology Committee last week.

Under the bill, HB 4973, the state’s plans to protect its information technology infrastructure and any assessments of the plans or equipment would not be public information.

Michigan State Police (MSP) testified in favor of the bill, stating that the legislation would help ensure private entities are reporting cybersecurity threats to the MSP and are not withholding cybersecurity incidents because the vulnerable information can be requested under FOIA.

The bill now goes to the full House for action.

Michigan Legislature Introduces Unemployment Insurance Reform Bills

The Michigan House of Representatives introduced a package of bills to repair several major problems within Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.
According to a Gongwer report, the bipartisan legislation was the outcome of a large workgroup consisting of Republicans, Democrats, business, labor, experts in unemployment benefits and the MI Unemployment Agency, which spent close to 900 hours drafting the the bills. 
The major points of the legislative package include:

  • Reducing penalties for fraud from four times the benefits received to an amount equivalent to the benefits received on the first offense and 1.5 times the amount received on subsequent offenses. Identity theft penalties would remain four times the benefits received.
  • Allowing anyone accused of fraud to have a state-funded advocate assist them through the process, something currently barred, though if the individual is found to have committed fraud they have to repay the state for the advocate’s service.
  • No longer requiring those improperly given benefits to pay interest on those benefits if the error in awarding benefits was made by the agency.
  • Clarifying language to assure the agency awards hardship waivers to those who received an over-payment but did nothing wrong and have income below the federal poverty level so they do not have to pay the benefits back.
  • Allowing an employer and employee to sign an affidavit together stating an unemployment benefits claim filed by someone else in the name of the employee was identity theft. The agency currently lacks mechanisms to address this growing problem, business groups have said.
  • Better notification to those accused of committing fraud.
A committee hearing on these bills is expected soon. The MAB is monitoring.

Update: New Advertising Disclaimers on E-Cig and Cigar Advertising Still on for 2018

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,
BroadcastLawBlog.com

Last year, the FDA adopted requirements to tag advertisements for vaping and e-cig advertising with a warning that e-cigs contain nicotine and that nicotine is an addictive chemical. These requirements were to go into effect in 2018.

In the last week, I have received several questions about these rules and their effective date. According to this FDA document (see the table on Page 5), released in August, the new disclosure obligations are still set to become effective on August 10, 2018. We wrote about that effective date here, and about the adoption of the requirements, including additional health warning disclosures required for cigar advertising, here. We don’t claim to be FDA experts, so companies offering these products should consult with lawyers who are knowledgeable about the status of additional obligations imposed on manufacturers and retailers adopted by the FDA last year.

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.

NAB Asks FCC to Act on Translators, Ownership Rules

NABAccording to a report from InsideRadio, the NAB’s VP of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Rick Kaplan met with the FCC Chief of Staff Matthew Berry to discuss translators and media ownership rules.

The NAB says interference issues between full-power FMs and translators “remains a persistent problem” and Kaplan petitioned the FCC to adopt the proposals submitted by the NAB group to “facilitate efficient disposition” of the conflicts. Most notably, the NAB suggests the Commission give operators the ability to relocate translators anywhere on the FM dial as a “minor change” to a facility—instead of only to an adjacent or IF-related channel—to resolve interference complaints.  Additionally, since the FCC plans to revisit its media ownership rules, Kaplan made a case for a petition which seeks to change how ownership caps are calculated in embedded markets.

Cybersecurity FOIA Exemption Bill Gets a Committee Hearing

Last week the House Communication and Technology Committee held a hearing on legislation that would exempt critical cybersecurity data from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). House Bill 4973 exempts from FOIA cybersecurity plans, assessments or vulnerabilities. Similar legislation last term received intense push back, particularly from environmental groups, for attempting to exempt from FOIA critical energy infrastructure information.

Michigan State Police testified in support of this legislation stating that it would help ensure private entities are reporting cybersecurity threats to the department because entities are worried their sensitive and proprietary information could be released under the current FOIA provisions.  Under current law, FOIA exempts “records or information of measures designed to protect the security or safety of persons or property” from being disclosed. The bill would also add “or the confidentiality, integrity or availability of information systems.”

Vote on HB 4973 is expected this week.

FCC to Consider Abolishing Main Studio Rule at its October 24 Meeting

According to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC released the agenda and draft orders for the agency’s open meeting on October 24.

For broadcasters, the most significant proposal on the agenda is the draft order to abolish the main studio rule: the requirement that a broadcast station maintain a main studio in close proximity to its city of license that is open to the public and staffed during normal business hours.

The FCC’s draft order states that in today’s world much communication with broadcasters is done by phone or electronically, and as stations either have or soon will have their public files available online, there was no longer any need to maintain the rule mandating the main studio. The main studio rule has been on the book since 1939. Your MAB is monitoring and will bring you updates.

Free Speech Amendment Debate in House Oversight Committee

According to a report in Gongwer, State Representative Jim Runestad (R-44) testified in Michigan House Oversight Committee last week that Michigan’s public universities do not care about protecting free speech and allow for the suppressing of speech on campuses.

Runestad testified in favor of the constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature the power to overrule university and community college regulations for the “protection of free speech, expression and assembly rights.”

House Joint Resolution P was opposed by the college officials who called it “a solution in search of a problem.”  The committee did not act on the proposal at the meeting.

ACTION ALERT:​ Tell Congress to Vote NO on Ad Tax!

As Congress begins to work on tax reform in earnest, the MAB wants to reinforce our support for preserving advertising deductibility as an ordinary and necessary business expense in any forthcoming tax reform proposals.

The MAB reached out to all the members of the Michigan Congressional delegation on this important issue. We believe that to make any changes to the current tax treatment of advertising pose significant economic harm to the local business and, by extension, broadcasters’ investment in local news, weather, emergency information, and community service.

Now we are asking you to take action! Tell your members of Congress that an ad tax is a bad tax. Contact your member of Congress and ask them to oppose any attempts to change the way advertising is currently treated in the tax code.

PLEASE NOTE: We are NOT contacting Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office as she is already in our corner and has signed a letter to her colleagues urging them to oppose any modification to the ad tax treatment.

Below is a sample of text that you may use in your email to Senator Gary Peters and your local representative:

As Congress begins to work on tax reform in earnest, we want to reinforce our support for preserving advertising deductibility as ordinary and necessary business expense.  Michigan broadcasters reject any measure that would eliminate a business’ ability to deduct the full cost of advertising in the year it was incurred.

Advertising is a powerful engine that helps drive the economy of Michigan. According to the Advertising Coalition study prepared by IHS Economics and Country Risk, advertising expenditures account for $179.8 billion of economic output or sales in Michigan – that is 16.3% of the $1.1 trillion in total economic output in the State. Sales of products and services that are driven by advertising help support 566,329 jobs, representing 13.4% of the 4.2 million jobs in Michigan.

For 100 years, advertising has been treated in the tax code as an ordinary and necessary expense of doing business and that has worked well.  We urge you to not to make any changes to this portion of the tax code as you seek to make reforms.

Thank you for your support!

When you email your Congressional member, please CC the MAB at Palombo@michmab.com

  • Click here to contact Senator Gary Peters.
  • Click here to contact Congressman Jack Bergman, R-1
  • Click here to contact Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-2
  • Click here to contact Congressman Justin Amash, R-3
  • Click here to contact Congressman John Moolenaar, R-4
  • Click here to contact Congressman Dan Kildee, D-5
  • Click here to contact Congressman Fred Upton, R-6
  • Click here to contact Congressman Tim Walberg, R-7
  • Click here to contact Congressman Mike Bishop, R-8
  • Click here to contact Congressman Sander Levin, D-9
  • Click here to contact Congressman Paul Mitchell, R-10
  • Click here to contact Congressman Dave Trott, R-11
  • Click here to contact Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-12
  • Click here to contact Congressman John Conyers, Jr., D-13
  • Click here to contact Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, D-14