Last week, the MAB met with Congressman Dave Trott (R-11) as part of our summer in-district advocacy outreach. MAB members brought the Congressman up to date on the issues affecting the Michigan broadcasting industry, including progress and the timeline of the FCC incentive spectrum auction and the impact the subsequent repacking process will have on the local TV stations. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Trott was involved in the Copyright Act review, and has co-sponsored the performance tax legislation (H.R. 1733).
MAB members discussed the impact that levying additional taxes will have on local radio stations and the amount of fees stations already pay to ASCAP and BMI. Congressman Trott expressed interest in continued discussion of performance fees and stated that he hopes to be part of the copyright reform in the next Congress.
The 6th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s request for a stay of a lower court decision placing a preliminary injunction on the law enacted this year ending straight ticket voting.
The three-judge panel unanimously held that the state “offered only vague and largely unsupported justifications of fostering voter knowledge and engagement” in response to the district court ruling that ending straight ticket voting would place a burden on voters who tend to use the straight ticket option in greater numbers.
“After evaluating the burdens imposed by the law and the state’s asserted justifications, we hold that the secretary has not shown that there is a substantial likelihood that she will prevail on appeal in demonstrating that the district court erred in evaluating the plaintiffs’ Equal Protection Clause claim,” the court wrote. Further, the court held that the preliminary injunction preventing the repeal of straight ticket voting would cause no injury to the state.
According to a report in Broadcasting & Cable, the FCC’s spectrum incentive auction now generated over $11.5 billion in bids. The FCC will need at least $88,379,558,704 to cover the cost of paying broadcasters for the 126 MHz of spectrum; paying TV stations to move off the spectrum and paying for the auction itself.
The auction is expected to take up to several months before the FCC knows if it can come close to that financial figure. If it does not, the agency will have to lower its spectrum requirement to 114 MHz and resume the reverse portion of the auction. Currently, the FCC is conducting two rounds per day of two hours apiece, 10-12 a.m. and 2-4 p.m., but that number could be increased and the length shortened as the auction progresses as a way to speed the bidding process.
Congressman Mike Bishop (R-8) met with the MAB members on August 15. The group brought the Congressman up to date on issues affecting the broadcasting industry. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Bishop briefed the MAB about the review process involving Copyright issues.
Also discussed was the potential and the necessary rewrite of the tax laws. Though any effort to change the tax laws will be met with a lot of differing opinions, the MAB welcomed hearing Rep. Bishop speak about the importance of advertising as a necessary business expense deduction. The MAB appreciates that the Congressman has the same view of the importance of advertising to business and harm it would cause if companies could not longer deduct it from their business taxes.
The FCC has voted to retain its ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. Reuters reports that the panel voted 3-2 along party lines to retain the existing rules, which have been criticized as outdated and not reflecting marketplace trends. The rules circulated to the Commissioners reportedly included Wheeler’s proposal to allow waivers for newspapers or stations determined to qualify as “failing.”
NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton issued a statement in response to the ruling, “NAB strongly disagrees with the FCC’s decision to cling to long-outdated media ownership rules that no longer serve their purpose. For an agency that claims to be forward-thinking and focused on the future, when it comes to broadcasting, the FCC still applies analog regulation in the digital age. Most egregious is the Commission’s failure to remove its cross-ownership rules. The FCC’s greatest accomplishment with its latest order is to further hasten the great decline of our nation’s newspapers and the quality of journalism as a whole.”
According to the InsideRadio report, six lawmakers in Congress wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney General supporting the Justice Department’s decision not to make any changes to the antitrust consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI. The lawmakers called the decision “appropriate.”
The Congressmen wrote “So-called ‘fractional licensing’ would hamstring the music marketplace. Were the Department to propose modifying the consent decrees to allow fractional licensing, it would paralyze the market for licensed music.” The six U. S. House members included: Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Gene Green (D-TX), Dave Trott (R-MI) and Jared Polis (D-CO.)
Supporters of the petition to ban hydraulic fracturing in the state, known as fracking, lost a court battle to allow the use of “stale” signatures on their petition drive. “Stale” signatures are those older than 180 days. Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello ruled that the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan had no actual controversy before the court to allow it to issue a declaratory ruling on whether signatures, older than 180 days, can be counted.
The committee had not collected enough signatures on its petitions for an initiated act to ban fracking, nor had it filed the signatures it had collected, Borrello ruled in Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan v. Director of Elections (COC docket No. 16-000122-MM).
The committee sought a ruling from the court that petition signatures collected more than 180 days before the signatures were filed, or would be filed, could still be counted. A top official for the committee said the group will appeal the decision.
State Representative Jim Runestad (R-44) called for the Michigan Senate to take action on a joint resolution extending Michigan’s constitutional prohibition against unreasonable government search and seizures to include electronic data and communications. So far, there has not been a commitment from the Senate to do so.
House Joint Resolution N passed the House in June by a vote of 107-1 but has sat on the Senate floor since the Legislature adjourned for its summer recess. The joint resolution requires warrants be used to access an individual’s electronic data and communication.
“The right of individuals to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures is fundamental, which is why it is enshrined in the U.S. and Michigan constitutions. There ought to be no difference when it comes to government searches of electronic property and physical property,” Runestad said in a statement.
The MAB, with help from its members, continues its summer series of in-district congressional meetings. The focus of the meetings is to update lawmakers on the status of the incentive spectrum auction, discuss co-sponsorship of the Local Radio Freedom Act and advocate for preserving ad tax deductability in any future tax reform legislation.
On August 3, we met with Congressman Tim Walberg (R-7) at his Jackson office and on August 4th we met with Congressman Dan Kildee (D-5) at his office in Flint. The Congressmen both understand the value of local broadcasters to their communities. Congressman Walberg is a co-signer of the Local Radio Freedom Act and Congressman Kildee is taking another look and we will hopefully have him as a co-signer soon.
The regional in-district Congressional meetings are paramount for our industry advocacy. The NAB counts on the state broadcast associations to help with the grassroots lobbying in this way. This is why we need your support. When you are notified of a meeting with a Congressman, please make every effort to attend, and if you can’t attend in person, please appoint someone else from your staff to attend. The Congressmen want to meet with the broadcasters in their district, not the paid staff. Both Radio and Television need to be represented at every meeting. Unfortunately, these meetings sometimes come up quickly. The MAB will try to give you as much advanced notice as possible.
These in-district meetings are longer and have more substance than those in Washington DC, where our lawmakers have to squeeze us in to a loaded schedule with barely enough time to say hello. These meetings should be a “must attend” by every broadcaster with a station in a particular Congressional district.
Thank you to everyone who has attended so far for making the Congressional in-district meetings a priority. If you have not had the opportunity to meet with your Congressman, we hope to see you at an in-district meeting in the future. You will be notified when meeting come up in the areas your signal covers.
The second translator modification window opened July 29 for AM owners. The window will close on October 31. It is open to applications to modify FM translators within the non-reserved FM band that would rebroadcast any class of AM station (including Class C and D AM stations that did not participate in the first modification window).
Applications in the window will be filed on a first come, first served basis. Meaning, if there are limited open FM channels in any market, the first AM station that obtains a translator and files for an open channel would get it. If two applications are filed for the same channel in the same area on the same day, they will be considered mutually exclusive. That mutual exclusivity can be resolved by an engineering amendment.