The FCC released the tentative agenda for its May 25 Open Meeting. Topping the agenda is an item that could lift a burden from commercial broadcasters. The FCC will vote on adopting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to eliminate the requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain copies of letters and emails from the public in their public inspection files. These letters are the last vestige of the physical public file for TV broadcasters who several years ago migrated the rest of their public file to an online system maintained by the FCC.
Commissioners will also consider potential updates to 911 network outage reporting requirements and rules for the bidding process to hand out more than $2 billion over the next decade in Connect America broadband funding. Here’s a Wheeler blog post explaining the agenda.
MAB is planning a web meeting on this topic, as soon as details are confirmed.
Under the new legislation proposed by State Representative Sheldon Neeley (D-34), state regulators will have two business days to notify residents of water contaminants such as arsenic or lead, instead of the 30 days in current law. House Bill 5120, taken up by House Government Operations Committee, shortens the window in which the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is required to warn a community of health risks associated with prolonged exposure to contaminants in their drinking water.
The substitute version considered by the committee narrowed it down to two business days. House fiscal analysis of the legislation is available here.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Consumer Technology Association, America’s Public Television Stations and the Advanced Warning and Response Network filed a joint petition with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to authorize use of the ATSC 3.0 broadcasting standard on voluntary basis. The groups say the ATSC 3.0 standard will enable stations to broadcast 4K, reach smartphones and other mobile devices and offer new IP-based services.
“This is an exciting time for the broadcast industry. Next-Gen TV will provide broadcasters with the voluntary option of offering a higher-quality viewing experience, an IP-based infrastructure and greater interactivity with viewers,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith.
According to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC released a ‘declaratory ruling’ in which the agency states that a TV station’s pre-auction expenses can be reimbursed if that station has to be repacked after the incentive auction. The ruling is designed to expedite the post-transition repacking process. The FCC noted that the reimbursement can only go to the stations that are actually repacked. If a station is instead bought out entirely, or, if it is left on its current channel, these pre-auction preparatory actions will not be reimbursed.
Over 40 Michigan legislators and staff have already RSVPd to attend the MAB Legislative Reception on May 3 at the Lansing Center. They are coming to see you – their constituents! Please make certain that someone from your station is represented at the Legislative Reception at 5:30pm on Tuesday, May 3 at the Lansing Center. Michigan lawmakers affect our industry when it comes to the issues of taxes, FOIA, public notice reform and drone usage regulations. Don’t miss this chance to connect with your legislators! You can help by personally calling your legislator and inviting them to join you! List of lawmakers and their contact information can be found here.
We look forward to seeing you at the MAB Legislative Reception!
Last week, the Michigan House Committee on Communications and Technology, heard testimony on House Bill 5442 – the Public Threat Alert. The bill requires that Michigan State Police (MSP) establish and maintain a public threat alert plan to rapidly disseminate useful information to radio, television, and through wireless emergency alerts (WEA). The bill states that the public threat alert plan shall be activated only in accordance with the policies created by the MSP. HB 5442 contains no mandates for broadcasters, and voting on the bill is is expected next week.
Governor Rick Snyder (R) recently announced several changes in his Executive Office. This includes:
Mike Zimmer, now the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, into the post of cabinet director; and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Chief Deputy Director Shelly
Edgerton to LARA director.
Elizabeth Clement, currently Snyder’s deputy chief of staff and cabinet secretary, will become chief legal counsel, succeeding Jim Redford, who will serve as the interim director of the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. Beth Emmitt, who has been Snyder’s director of scheduling since he took office, was promoted to deputy chief of staff.
“Improving the culture of state government to ensure we are continuing to put people first is as important in my office as it is across all departments,” Snyder said in a statement. “The people I’m appointing to these new roles understand that our state faces many challenges right now but that in Michigan we don’t shy away from problems – we tackle them head on to make things better for everyone.”
Last week President Obama signed the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Modernization Act of 2015 into law. The new law integrates multiple communication systems like EAS and wireless alerts, promotes local and regional public and private partnerships, and provides redundant alert mechanisms to reach the largest number of people during an emergency.
The law does the following:
• Instructs FEMA to establish or adopt protocols and standards for IPAWS.
• Establishes a training program for Federal, State and local officials in the use of the CAP-enabled EAS system.
• Conducts a national test not less than once every three years.
• Conducts public education to inform citizens of the functions of the alerting system.
• Establishes an IPAWS subcommittee under the National Advisory Council.
According to a posted dated March 30 on FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake’s blog, AM Revitalization proceeding has resulted in over 600 applications to move translators for AM rebroadcasts to date. The blog further states that 80% of the applications have already been granted by the Audio Division. The process will continue through the end of this window in July, as well as the three-month window to follow, which will be open to all AM broadcasters.
Lake adds that there has been a 25% increase in the number of AM stations using energy-saving MDCL technologies since the procedures for doing so were streamlined to require only notification rather than obtaining Commission permission. “This is just one example of the ways in which we at the Commission hope to reduce the burdens on AM broadcasters who want to move their service into the 21st Century, and to remain a vibrant and essential part of America’s communication infrastructure,” Lake wrote.
According to a legal advisory released by Davis, Wright, Tremaine, LLP., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) looking to amend its video description rules to increase the amount of required video described programming as well as the number of programmers who must offer video description. Presently, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC-affiliated TV stations in the top 60 broadcast markets, and the top 5 non-broadcast networks – i.e., cable and satellite channels – must provide 50 hours per calendar quarter of prime-time or children’s programming with video description, with the top 5 networks being reassessed every three years. The key points of the NPRM are as follows:
The NPRM proposes that the number of hours of video-described programming required for each covered broadcast station or non-broadcast network increases from 50 hours per quarter to 87.5 hours per quarter, a 75% jump, which is the maximum the FCC is statutorily authorized to require by the enabling statute.
The NPRM proposes to increase the number of broadcast networks whose affiliates must provide video description from the “big four” of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, to add the fifth most-popular commercial broadcast network (currently CW, although that could change), and to increase the number cable/satellite networks from the top 5 – currently the Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT and USA – to the top 10 “most popular” non-broadcast networks.
The NPRM proposes a “no backsliding” rule, such that, if a network in the top 5 broadcast or top 10 cable/satellite categories falls out of the top 5 or top 10, respectively, it would, nonetheless, remain subject to the obligation to provide video descriptions.
The NPRM proposes to remove the threshold requirement that non-broadcast networks reach 50 percent of pay-tv households to be subject to video description, since those numbers are declining.
The NPRM proposes to require distributors to provide publicly available contact information for a person who can address video description issues and concerns within one business day.
The NPRM proposes that any request for exemption from the video description rules, as well as all related filings, be filed electronically with the FCC.
The NPRM seeks comment on the timelines over which the above proposed changes should roll out, if adopted, with a tentative conclusion that expansion in the number of networks and of hours of video-described programming should commence on July 18, 2018, the effective date of the next triennial recalculation of top networks. The NPRM suggests that its proposed rule to make company contact information public could be accomplished more quickly.
The NPRM sets an opening comment deadline of 30 days after the NPRM appears in the Federal Register, and a reply comment deadline of 30 days after that.