Category Archives: Legislative Update

MAB On-The-Road With Legislative Meetings

Legislative_800
(L-R) Debbie Kenyon (Senior VP/CBS Radio Detroit), Ed Fernandez (Divisional GM E.W. Scripps Co.), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12), Mike Renda (VP, WJBK-TV Detroit), Marla Drutz (VP, WDIV-TV Detroit) and Karole White (MAB President/CEO).

The MAB has started its summer series of in-district congressional meetings with Congressman Justin Amash (R-3) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12). 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 deductibility in any future tax reform legislation.

FCC Adds New Warning Codes to EAS

eas-logo_300The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) updated its rules to add more specific warnings through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) before extreme weather strikes. The amended rules add three new “event codes” that can be used to warn the public about the storm surges and extreme winds that may accompany hurricanes and other severe weather events.

The three added codes signify an (1) “Extreme Wind Warning,” (2) “Storm Surge Watch,” and (3) “Storm Surge Warning.” The updated rules require EAS equipment manufacturers to integrate the codes into new equipment and will also enable EAS participants to update their existing equipment in advance of 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.

Further information about EAS is available here.

NAB FOIAs FCC Media Ownership Work Product

According to a report in Broadcasting & Cable, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC requesting access to documents used in the process that led to the FCC’s recent ownership rules proposals. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s quadrennial review of broadcast ownership regulations leaves those regulations essentially intact, and restored additional restrictions on TV joint sales and shared services agreements.

The request, from NAB General Counsel/EVP Rick Kaplan, asks for materials used by the Media Bureau, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, and Wheeler in connection with developing and/or drafting policy recommendations for the circulated proposals. The Commission has 20 days to respond to the request. MAB is monitoring.

Michigan Among States Looking At Drone Regulations

To date, 31 legislatures have enacted laws and another five have adopted resolutions addressing drone usage, according to a study done by the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL). In Michigan, nine bills have been introduced addressing drone usage but none were signed into law yet.

The MAB continues to lobby the state legislature to include ‘news gathering exemption’ in the no-drone fly zone bills. The MAB also supports state legislation to create a legislative drone task force with the power to recommend policy proposals about drone use.

According to the NCSL:

  • 12 states have passed legislation providing privacy protections from other citizens that are specific to drones.
  • 18 have passed legislation requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to use drones for surveillance or to conduct a search.
  • 3 prohibit law enforcement from using drones with attached weapons.
  • 13 states have passed legislation that create criminal penalties for misusing drones.

Drone sales are estimated to grow from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020, according to the National Council of State Legislatures study. By 2025, drones will have created 100,000 jobs and wield $82 billion worth of economic impact.

Coalition Calls for Federal Investigation of State Agencies Over Flint

water_300A coalition of activist groups from Detroit and Flint, organized by the Sierra Club and Earth Justice, are calling for a federal interagency investigation into Michigan’s Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) to determine if either agency violated civil rights laws of the Flint citizens in handling water complaints. The organizations are asking the federal counterparts of the Michigan agencies to conduct the investigation, with the U.S. Department of Justice coordinating. The coalition charged DHHS with failing in its duties to provide information about the services it was offering to Flint residents in languages other than English, to serve both Hispanic-American and undocumented populations there.

FOIA Bill Signed Into Law

On June 30, President Barack Obama signed a Freedom of Information Act upgrade that orders the creation of a single federal online portal for info requests. Noting the federal government gets more FOIA requests than ever before, Obama said the bill codifies some of the reforms already made, and allows for ongoing efforts to make the process faster and cheaper.

Lead sponsor Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said the signing was an “important step forward,” while Democratic co-sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the bill brings “FOIA into the digital age.” The bill went through a series of changes to narrow its provisions throughout the process amid opposition from some federal agencies.

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.