Category Archives: Legislative Update

Meet your lawmakers – Attend the MAB Legislative Reception!

View More: http://benjamindavidphotography.pass.us/mab--glbc-2014Over 40 Michigan legislators and staff have already RSVPd to attend the MAB Legislative Reception on March 8 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Lansing Center. They are coming to see you – their constituents! Please make plans to attend and/or make sure that someone from your station is represented. Michigan lawmakers affect our industry when it comes to the issues of taxes, FOIA, public notice reform and drone use regulations. Don’t miss this chance to connect with your legislators! There are over 40 new state representatives this legislative session who will make decisions that will affect your bottom line.

You can help by personally calling your legislator and telling him/her that you will be attending and you hope to see them there. List of lawmakers and their contact information can be found here.

We look forward to seeing you at the MAB Legislative Reception!

GLBC Session Preview: A New Administration – What it Could Mean for Media

(L-R) David Oxenford and Skip Pizzi
(L-R) David Oxenford and Skip Pizzi

Wednesday, March 8 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Presented by David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer &

Skip Pizzi, National Association of Broadcasters

A new President and a new Chair of the FCC have already demonstrated that change is in the air in Washington. Already we’ve seen Chairman Pai lead the FCC to abolish the requirement that broadcasters maintain letters from the public about station operations in their public file, proposals to expand use of FM translators by AM stations and pushing ahead with the new ATSC 3.0 standard for television.

And we have a post-auction repack coming soon.

Join us as we address the legal, regulatory, and technical issues that may arise.  David and Skip will answer your questions!

MAB in Washington this Week

FCC 's Matthew Berry speaking at the NAB State Leadership on February 28.
FCC ‘s Matthew Berry speaking at the NAB State Leadership on February 28.

This week, MAB staff and members of MAB’s Board of Directors are in Washington, D.C. for the 2017 National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference.

The MAB will be meeting with members of the Michigan Congressional delegation and their telecommunication staff to discuss: (1) the need to ensure that the repacking timeline and relocation funds are adequate as not to disrupt TV broadcast service; (2) the need to ensure that any changes to the Communications Act recognize the value of free, over-the-air broadcasting to local communities and do not harm viewers or undermine the business model that provides locally-driven content; (3) broadcasters’ opposition to the performance tax and asked the lawmakers to co-sponsor the Local Radio Freedom Act; and (4) the need to preserve advertising deductibility as a vehicle for economic recovery in any future tax code reform proposals.

Meet Your lawmakers: Attend the MAB Legislative Reception!

Legislative_400-300x200Over 40 Michigan legislators and staff have already RSVP’d to attend the MAB Legislative Reception on March 8 from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. at the Lansing Center. They are coming to see you – their constituents!

Please make plans to attend and/or make sure that someone from your station is represented. Michigan lawmakers affect our industry when it comes to the issues of taxes, FOIA, public notice reform and drone use regulations. Don’t miss this chance to connect with your legislators! There are over 40 new state representatives this legislative session who will make decisions that will affect your bottom line.

You can help by personally calling your legislator and telling him/her that you will be attending and you hope to see them there. List of lawmakers and their contact information can be found here.

We look forward to seeing you at the MAB Legislative Reception!

Forward Auction Finishes At $19.6 Billion

The FCC announced last week that the forward auction has ended with $19.6 billion raised. Of this total, broadcasters will receive about $10 billion, with $1.75 billion going to broadcasters that incur costs in repacking and moving to a difference channel in the post-auction spectrum channel reassignment. More than $6 billion will go to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction.

The auction resulted in 84 megahertz of TV spectrum being repurposed for broadband use.

According to the FCC, the agency will prepare a Closing and Channel Reassignment Public Notice announcing the formal close of the incentive auction and providing information about the winning bidders and the post-auction TV band, including:

  • The results of the reverse auction, including the winning stations, the markets they serve, their incentive payments, their successful bidding option (moving off-air or to a different band), and whether they indicated an intent to channel share.
  • The results of the forward auction, including the winning bidders, the prices paid, and the specific frequencies they won in the assignment phase. The public notice will set the deadline by which winning bidders will then file “long form” applications to apply for licenses to operate on those frequencies.
  • The post-auction channel assignments for all reverse auction-eligible stations who will remain on the air after the auction.
  • The date by which each station must transition off its pre-auction channel.

The release of the Closing and Channel Reassignment Public Notice also marks the start of the 39-month transition for stations that are required to move.

MAB Attends Drone Bill Signing

02142017MacGregorBillSigning2FB
The MAB were a guest of Governor Snyder on February 14 as he signed Senate Bill 992 into law.
This legislation allows a person that authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate unmanned aerial systems (aka drones) for commercial purposes in a manner consistent with the authorization. The new law also sets up a legislative drone task-force to develop statewide policy recommendations on the use/operation of drones, and must include a member recommended by the MAB to represent the broadcast industry.

Senate Committee Passes FOIA Exemptions

capitol3Information on bids, quotes or proposals involved in a procurement process would be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) until after the contract is awarded under Senate Bill 69, which was voted out of the Senate Government Operations Committee. The information would be publicly available after a vendor is selected, but trade secrets, proprietary and other financial information about a company that may cause competitive harm to the company would not be available through a FOIA request under this legislation.

According to the bill sponsor, Senator Rick Jones (R-24), the purpose of the bill is that companies would not be able to see other companies’ contracts. “When companies find out that a department of state is going to do a process, they FOIA to see how much a state has to pay to make their bid higher, which hurts taxpayers,” Jones said. According to a report in Gongwer, Senator Jones said that by including this protection, he is also hopeful that companies, especially in the health care industry, will take another look at bidding on state projects in Michigan because their financial interests or trade secrets can continue to be kept from competitors. Officials with the Department of Technology, Management and Budget testified in support of the legislation.

MAB attorney John Ronayne III researched the bill and, though according to Mr. Ronayne certain parts of the bill are already covered under a FOIA exemption, trade secrets clearly are not. The MAB never likes to see exemptions to FOIA, but in this case we feel that the trade secret exemption is reasonable as long as it is narrowly applied.

FCC Releases First EEO Audit for 2017

Over 200 radio and almost 80 TV stations named in the audit notice, including Michigan stations.

David Oxenford - ColorBy: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP
www.broadcastlawblog.com

In the swirl of news about the deregulatory efforts of the new FCC, one could almost forget that there are still many regulations in place that require significant amounts of paperwork retention by broadcasters. That point was hammered home last week,  when the FCC released its first EEO audit letter of 2017 for radio and TV broadcasters. The FCC’s public notice announcing the commencement of the audit includes the audit letter that was sent to all of the targeted stations. The list of over 200 radio stations subject to the audit is here. The list of almost 80 TV stations is here. Responses are due March 28, 2017. As employment information for all stations within a named station’s “employment unit” must be provided in response to the audit, the reach of this notice goes far beyond the 300 stations targeted in the audit notices. While the FCC is considering a proposal to allow online recruiting sources to suffice to meet a broadcaster’s wide dissemination requirements (as we wrote here), that proposal is still at an early stage and, as this audit notice evidences, the underlying rules remain in place.

The FCC reminds stations that were targeted by the audit to put a copy of the audit letter in their public file. The response, too, must go into the file. For all the TV stations hit by the audit letter, and those radio stations that have already converted to the online public file, that will mean that the audit letter and response go into that FCC-hosted online public file.

The Commission has pledged to randomly audit 5% of all broadcast stations and cable systems each year to assure their compliance with the Commission’s EEO rules – including the requirements for wide dissemination of information about job openings and non-vacancy specific supplemental efforts to educate a station’s community about job opportunities in the media industry. We recently summarized FCC EEO issues here, reminding broadcasters of the possibility of being audited. The FCC also has the opportunity to audit larger broadcasters’ EEO performance when they file their FCC EEO Mid-Term Report. We also wrote about the start of the obligations for the filing of FCC Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Reports – which started the year before last for radio groups with more than 11 full-time employees and last year for TV licensees with 5 or more full-time employees in a few months, and are filed on the 4th anniversary of the filing deadline for the station’s license renewal – which will give the FCC another chance to review station EEO performance.

The audit letter requires all stations with five or more full-time (30 or more hours per week) employees to provide a significant amount of information about their EEO programs and recruiting efforts (including copies of their two latest Annual EEO public file reports and documentation backing up the efforts listed on those reports). Even stations with fewer than five full-time employees need to report the job titles of their employees and the number of hours they are assigned to work each week, and provide any information about law suits, EEOC complaints or similar employment actions brought as a result of equal employment or discrimination matters. Information about any time brokerage agreement must also be disclosed.

If any station in your cluster is on the list, all stations in that “station employment unit” (a group of commonly owned stations serving the same area with at least one common employee) must respond. But, if a cluster has been audited in 2014 or 2015, or if its renewal was granted in the last 18 months, the FCC may allow you to avoid responding to this audit – but you have to request that “pass” from the FCC. If a station that is being audited is involved in an LMA with another broadcaster, the audit may require that the broker provide employment information as well as the licensee.

All stations should review the audit letter as it provides a good outline of the documents that stations should be retaining to demonstrate their compliance with the FCC’s EEO rules. For more information about compliance with the EEO rules, see our post about an EEO webinar in which I participated, held by the FCC in early 2012 to explain its EEO rules. Also, you can find a link to a presentation that I did just over a year ago on the EEO rules for broadcasters, here. You may also want to review the last set of fines for broadcast EEO violations, about which we wrote here.

Many broadcasters complain that the EEO rules are among the more burdensome paperwork requirements, and no doubt much time and money will be spent responding to this audit notice. But whether a broader review of the EEO requirements, beyond simply looking at the acknowledgement that online recruiting is how recruiting is now done, will be in the cards at the FCC remains to be seen.

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 membership.

Pai Revokes Wheeler’s Regulations

fcc-logo_dark-blueFCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the commission was revoking a number of orders and reports issued in previous Chairman Tom Wheeler’s term, what Pai called “midnight regulations.” Pai said, “In the waning days of the last administration, the Federal Communications Commission’s bureaus and offices released a series of controversial orders and reports. In some cases, commissioners were given no advance notice whatsoever of these midnight regulations.”

Among the repealed orders was one requiring tougher scrutiny of any joint sales and shared services agreements proposed by the broadcasters. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said: “NAB is pleased that Chairman Pai is eliminating unlawful and arbitrary processing guidelines governing broadcast joint sales and shared service agreements. These regulations unfairly punished smaller broadcasters attempting to conserve resources to reinvest in localism and high quality programming.”

Chairman Pai Institutes Greater Transparency

According to a report by TVNewsCheck, FCC Chairman Pai on February 7, released a “process reform measure” that changes previous commission procedure that he said he has sometimes found “inappropriate and disrespectful.”

Pai said, “I started a pilot program under which the Federal Communications Commission publicly released the text of two items to be voted upon at the agency’s upcoming Feb. 23 meeting. This program is designed to give Americans greater insight into the commission’s thinking about meeting items.  Accordingly, I pledge that during my tenure as chairman, my office will share with every commissioner’s office every item that will be considered at an open meeting before anyone in my office discusses the content of those items publicly or the FCC releases the text of those documents.”