Category Archives: Legislative Update

EAS Comments Filed By State Broadcast Associations

The Michigan Association of Broadcasters, along with other broadcaster associations representing 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, recently filed Joint Comments in the FCC’s rulemaking proceeding regarding proposed changes to the Emergency Alert System. We pointed out how state broadcasters associations played an important role in the effort to pass a federal statute authorizing the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), and how broadcasters and State Emergency Communications Committees (SECCs) are committed and critical stakeholders in our nation’s emergency alerting network. A broad theme of our comments was the need for EAS issues to be addressed at the state and local levels where possible, giving SECCs and EAS participants the necessary discretion to make decisions that work for their respective communities. Some of the specific points included in the comments were:

  1. The state broadcaster associations objected to proposals claiming to enhance the security of the EAS network, but which would in fact impose unreasonable burdens on broadcasters, such as requiring broadcasters to notify the FCC of security breaches (e.g., the unauthorized triggering of an alert) within 15-30 minutes. We pointed out that imposing such burdens could have a chilling effect on full participation by broadcasters in EAS.
  2. The state broadcaster associations urged the FCC to adopt rules requiring cable systems to implement “selective override” for TV broadcast stations, which would prevent cable set-top boxes from automatically tuning all channels during an EAS alert to a cable channel providing only generic information about the emergency situation. Without a selective override requirement, TV stations which provide up to the minute news and weather reports during emergency and severe weather situations will continue to be subject to having their signals automatically blocked by cable operators at the very time when detailed emergency or weather information is most needed.
  3. The state broadcaster associations supported the idea of allowing broadcasters, at their discretion, to perform live code EAS testing without the need for FCC waivers, to use EAS tones in PSAs, and to use WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) tones in news reports designed to inform the public about WEA, (subject to safeguards) to assure that such codes do not trigger alerts downstream.
  4. The state broadcaster associations questioned a proposal to bring social media and other non-broadcast/cable platforms into the EAS network, arguing that those platforms, in many cases are still evolving, and are of uncertain reliability and utility as sources for distributing alerts.
  5. The state broadcaster associations cautioned the FCC against adopting any “one-size-fits-all” template for State EAS Plans which would impair the flexibility of SECCs to tailor plans to their own respective states’ needs, or which would impose unreasonable burdens on the SECCs that would have to rewrite their plans to fit such a template. We also cautioned the FCC generally about adopting proposals which would increase the burdens on SECCs, as they are typically volunteer organizations with limited resources.

Download the FCC filing here.

Group Seeks OTT Equality

According to the report in TVNewsCheck, the TV Neutrality Alliance, a coalition of over-the-top (OTT) service providers and broadcasters, filed comments with the FCC urging the commission to act on its proposal to classify online video distributors (OVDs) of broadcast station signals as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

The Alliance proposed a modification to the MVPD definition to promote equal access to online broadcast content and recommends language to protect online streaming video services from unintentional FCC regulations while ensuring broadcaster rights to retransmission consent.

NAB Asks FCC to Scrap Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership Ban

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has filed ex parte comments with the FCC urging changes to what it termed the “inequitable” broadcast ownership rules. The NAB called for the elimination of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership prohibition, citing the Third Circuit’s statement that the ban remains in place “even though the FCC determined more than a decade ago that it is no longer in the public interest.” The NAB argues that the ban “affirmatively harms localism,” and is no longer necessary.

The NAB also called for reform of the local TV ownership rules to loosen the restrictions on duopolies by eliminating the eight-voices test and top-four station restriction.

Democrats Reserve $600K in TV Time in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District

The House Majority PAC, a pro-Democratic Party political action committee (PAC), announced that it is reserving over $600,000 in early airtime in the Northern Michigan’s 1st Congressional district. This round of buys includes $214,294 in the Marquette media market and $378,428 in Traverse City.

The PAC also previously purchased $220,148 in TV advertising time in the Green Bay media market, which covers part of the western U.P.

To claim majority in the U.S. House, Democrats must capture at least 30 seats, which would include clearing nearly all the seats they are slated to win in November and some Republican lean seats. The Democrats’ preferred candidate in the race to replace retiring U.S. Congressman Dan Benishek’s open seat is former Michigan Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson. The 1st Congressional district includes the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula.

Governor Signs Public Threat Alert Legislation

capitol3Governor Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5442 into law. The new law requires that the Michigan State Police (MSP) establish and maintain a public threat alert system plan that would rapidly disseminate useful information to radio, television, and through wireless emergency alerts (WEA).

The law states that the Public Threat Alert System shall be activated only in accordance with the policies created by the Michigan State Police. The law contains no mandates for broadcasters.

The MAB and the State Emergency Communications Committee (SECC) is reviewing several requests to use the EAS “LEW” (Law Enforcement Warning) code, with concern that over-use could lead to station deactivating codes that are not mandated by the FCC.

Broadcast Auction Bids Heat Up

The FCC is stepping up the pace of the bidding rounds in the forward part of the incentive auction. Beginning June 13, the agency started conducting three rounds of bidding per day, up from the previous two. Initially, experts suggested that the reverse auction could run a maximum of 51 rounds. However, the new schedule may mean that the auction could end in late June – early July.

While it’s not clear when the forward auction begins, the agency has now set July 1 as the deadline for wireless auction applicants to make their upfront payments.

MABPAC Fundraiser: Let’s Go to the Ballpark!

PACfundraiser
Please join the Michigan Association of Broadcasters Political Action Committee (MABPAC)
for the Detroit Tigers v. Chicago White Sox baseball game and fundraiser on Monday, August 29, prior to the 2016 MAB Summer Advocacy Conference.

Guests will enjoy the game and picnic-style dinner and drinks in one of the private party suites located by third base.

What: Tigers vs. White Sox
When: Monday, August 29 – Suite opens at 6 p.m.; Game time is 7:10 p.m.
Where: Comerica Park, Detroit
Cost: $250/person

Reserve your spot by clicking HERE.

Space is limited and is available on first come, first served basis. Reserve your tickets today!

NOTE: In compliance with the Michigan Campaign Finance law, only personal checks/payments can be accepted. No corporate checks, please.

Questions? Contact Elena Palombo at Palombo@michmab.com or 517-484-7444.

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you at the game!

Senate Committee Greenlights Internet Gaming Bills

capitol3Senate Bills 889 and 890 allowing eight Michigan casinos to launch their own Internet gaming websites were voted out of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, despite testimony claiming the bills are unconstitutional and would cost the state “hundreds of millions of dollars” in lost revenue from tribal casinos.

Legislation includes a statement that says the Legislature finds that the Internet is “an integral part of everyday life for a significant number of residents of the state,” and that “Internet wagering on games of chance and games of skill is a core form of entertainment for millions of individuals across the world that generates billions of dollars in revenue for governments.”

The bill would grant licenses for Internet gambling in Michigan for just companies that currently have a casino license. This would include the Detroit casinos, and with tribal governments that have a gambling compact with the state. The bill would also require the licensees to make a non-refundable $100,000 application fee and a $5 million license fee (which could be refunded if a license is not granted).

The bill also imposes a 10 percent tax on gaming revenues, which the Legislature would appropriate.

FCC Proposes Earth Station Update Extension

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Public Notice regarding an extension of the deadline that TV stations using satellite newsgathering trucks will have to install a tracking beam so neighboring satellite TV operators can find them if they cause interference.

TV Technology reports that nearly three years ago, the Federal Communications Commission ordered the adoption of an identification scheme that would allow satellite operators to track down interference from temporary-fixed earth stations—a category that includes satellite newsgathering trucks. These stations were supposed to start embedding an Automatic Transmitter Identification System message into their subcarrier signal by September 3, 2016. This was to be achieved through an upgraded or new modulator, but those are few and far between as the deadline approaches, according to the FCC Public Notice seeking feedback on when to set the new deadline.

“Recent information from affected earth station operators and independent staff market surveillance, indicate that suitable external modulators have not become widely available,” the notice said. “Many earth station operators would therefore be unable to retro-fit their current transmitting equipment in order to comply… and instead would need to replace the equipment at a considerably greater expense than anticipated when the rule was adopted.”

Read more here.

U.S. House Recognizes Broadcasters’ Role in Emergencies

The House of Representatives passed the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters (SANDy) Act, H.R. 3998, sponsored by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ). This bill makes several changes to wireless and emergency networks in order to improve disaster response. It officially recognizes the role radio and television broadcasters play in emergency situations.

This legislation:

  • Ensures that during an emergency, consumer cell phones work on other carriers’ networks if their own network goes down, giving priority to calls to 911 services and emergency alerts;
  • Begins a process to provide 911 services over Wi-Fi hotspots during emergencies;
  • Ensures that all communication providers, including radio, TV, and phone can fix outages faster, even across state lines; and
  • Launches an expansive study of the future of network resiliency.

H.R. 3998 is now being considered by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.