Category Archives: Legislative Update

Michigan Campaign Finance Network Releases TV Ad Spending Report

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Republican 10th Congressional candidate Paul Mitchel has aired $662,776 in broadcast television ads in the Detroit media market as of last week. Television stations in Northern Michigan or in Flint did not report any political advertising buys in the U.S. House for the August primary election.

Lon Johnson, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, has reserved air time for the General Election.

FCC Will Unveil Forward Auction Bidders Mid-July

According to the report in Broadcasting & Cable, the FCC stated that it would reveal the final list of eligible bidders in the forward portion of the broadcast incentive auction. Upfront payments from the approximately 100 bidders who are eligible to bid and subject to those payments were due to the FCC by July 1.

“Once we’ve validated which applicants have made payments, we will release a list (in a public notice) of qualified bidders in mid-July,” announced Chair of the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force Gary Epstein. Since the FCC decreed that the forward auction cannot begin for 15 business days after the public notice, which puts the earliest start of the forward auction in mid-August.

The clearing cost for TV broadcasters’ airwaves is a staggering $86.4 billion. That price must be met by carriers and would-be wireless service providers in aggregate to acquire spectrum licenses during the forward auction.  According to Broadcasting  & Cable, that figure “is sure to prompt speculation that bidders in the forward auction will not pony up enough to cover it.”

One analyst was quoted as saying, “Given the current financial profile of the industry, this number ($86.4 billion) may have to become significantly lower. A second stage of the reverse auction later this year is likely. Indeed, we could well see the proceedings drag on into early 2017 before coming to a final conclusion.”

Congress is in Session This Week. How Are You Communicating With Them?

via the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)

Though many eyes are on the race for president, Congress is at work in D.C. and they need to hear from you. What have you done this week that impacts their constituents (your viewers and listeners)? An easier question might be, what haven’t you done?

Remember, your legislators need to know the many ways you are serving your community. If it’s an investigative report, a charity event or emergency coverage, don’t be shy about educating them.

Use social media to communicate with your members of Congress, and include the hashtag #WeAreBroadcasters so NAB can amplify your efforts.

Download a digital ad
 today for your website to help educate Congress and your audience on the indispensable role of local stations, and check out our newly updated website WeAreBroadcasters.com.

Ensuring legislators understand broadcasters’ valuable role in the community will make a difference in how they approach policy decisions. Don’t take for granted that policymakers understand the great work you do. Have questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us at WeAreBroadcasters@nab.org.

MSC Rules Police Held Harmless For Lying In Certain Circumstances

MIsupremeIn a unanimous opinion issued by the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC), the panel of judges held that police officers, regardless of whether they lie, cannot be charged criminally from an involuntary statement. The court, acting in People v. Harris (SC docket No. 149872), overturned a decision by the Court of Appeals. The case examined whether three Detroit officers could be charged with obstruction of justice after lying in an internal investigation about whether one of them, Officer Nevin Hughes, assaulted a person while on duty. The issue was whether the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act (DLEOA) rendered the charge invalid. The DLEOA protects officers making “involuntary statements,” meaning information provided at the threat of any employment sanction, from use in a subsequent criminal proceeding.

In an opinion authored by Justice Brian Zahra, the Supreme Court held that the law’s intent was to allow officers to provide information during internal investigations, seemingly with immunity from prosecution to encourage truthfulness, although this seems to have caused the opposite to occur in this instance, noted Justice Zahra.

FAA Finalizes Small Drone Rules

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finalized and made public its first of its kind rules for Small UAS (drone) operation, which will go into effect in 60 days. As a result, drone use within the parameters outlined in the rule can be conducted legally without special permission from the FAA. Although the rule does not provide relief from every restriction over which the National Association of Braodcasters (NAB) raised concerns – flights over people, night operations, visual line-of-site operation, in particular – it establishes a separate process by which individual users can obtain waivers for these uses.

The NAB will circulate broader guidance once they have completed a thorough review of the rule, which is more than 600 pages in length.  In the meantime, below is a high-level summary of drone use covered by this rule.

  • Maximum weight: 55 pounds.
  • Maximum altitude: 400 feet above ground level (but, may operate over a structure if it remains within 400 feet of the structure and does not operate over 400 feet above the structure).
  • Maximum speed: 87 knots/100 mph.
  • Minimum age of operator: 16.
  • Operations may only be conducted during daytime.
  • Operations may only be conducted within the visual line of sight.
  • Operations over people permitted only over those participating in the operation.
  • Transportation of property for compensation or hire permitted, as long as the total weight is no more than 55 pounds and the operation is conducted within a state.
  • Part 61 pilot certificate holders can take an online training course; others will take an aeronautical knowledge test at a designated FAA center.
  • Uses for which waivers are available: Operations from moving vehicle, visual line of sight, operations near aircraft, operations near people, operating limitations for altitude and ground speed, minimum visibility, minimum distance from clouds, daylight operations, visual observer operations of multiple UAS.

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.