Category Archives: Legislative Update

FCC Announces Details of May 24 Reverse Auction Workshop

fcc-logo_dark-blueAccording to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC released a Public Notice outlining the agenda for the May 24 workshop to explain the process of bidding in the reverse auction. The May 24 Workshop will be held at the FCC’s offices and will also be streamed live on the Internet . The workshop, scheduled from 10 AM to 1 PM Eastern, will cover the process for bidding and will review the bidding software itself. Prior to the workshop, an online tutorial will be available that includes an overview of the bidding software and a review of the bidding procedures that bidders should understand in order to participate in the auction.

NAB Thanks Congress For Opposing Performance Royalty With Ad

NAB_thanksThe National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is running an ad in Capitol Hill newsletters and publications thanking more than 250 members of the U.S. House and Senate for co-sponsoring the Local Radio Freedom Act, which opposes any new performance fee, tax, royalty, or other charges on local broadcast radio stations. The resolution, which was introduced in Congress in February 2015, has 230 co-sponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate.

FCC Announces June 24 Effective Date for Radio Online Public Inspection File; New System For TV

David Oxenford - ColorBy: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

On May 13, the FCC issued a Public Notice that the obligation will begin on June 24 to start uploading documents to the online public file for radio stations in the Top 50 markets. For Top 50 market commercial radio stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees, the June 24 date will mark the start of their obligation to upload materials to the online public file. New public file documents (including political file documents) created on or after that date are to be placed in the online public file. These stations will have 6 months from the effective date (until December 24, 2016) to upload to the online public file existing documents that are already in their paper public file. This would include documents like EEO Public Inspection File Reports and Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. Pre-effective date political file documents need not be uploaded. Letters from the public also do not need to be uploaded (see our article here about the FCC’s proposal to entirely do away with the requirement that letters be kept). We wrote more extensively about the obligations for the radio online public inspection file here.

TV, too, needs to pay attention to this notice. The Public Notice announces that the online public file will be moving to a new database. Effective on June 24, TV licensees will need to use this new database too – what the FCC calls the “OPIF” (for expanded online public inspection file) as opposed to the old “BPIF” (“broadcast public inspection file”). The FCC suggests that the new OPIF database will allow for easier uploads – including the ability to upload a single document into multiple stations’ files at the same time. It will also have a more user-friendly interface, and will work better with other online systems like Dropbox and Box. This database moves these files off the FCC server and onto a cloud-based storage system. Stations can already try out the new system here.

The FCC is planning a webinar on the online public file on a date to be announced in the near future.

The FCC also reminded TV stations to make sure that Joint Sales Agreements are uploaded into their public file by both the broker and the licensee. A recent GAO study suggested that many TV stations had failed to upload Joint Sales Agreements as required by the rules. The FCC warning indicates that the failure to upload these documents could lead to fines, and notes that stations need to report any late filings on their next license renewal application.

The effective date also applies to cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers, DBS providers, as well as SDARS licensees (i.e. Sirius XM).

With the upcoming election, these files will no doubt be subject to scrutiny. So be ready to comply with this new obligation by next month’s effective date.

The MAB is planning a Webex meeting with David Oxenford on this topic.  Details to be announced soon.

House Passes Public Threat Alert System

capitol3The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a public threat alert system in an effort to “lessen the scale of future tragedies.”

House Bill 5442 passed 106-2 and would require the Department of State Police to establish and maintain a public threat alert system plan to activate as called for under departmental policies. The plan would be designed to rapidly distribute information to radio and television stations in the state and send text messages to wireless communication devices. The bill states that the public threat alert system plan shall be activated only in accordance with the policies created by the Michigan State Police. HB 5442 contains no mandates for broadcasters.

Appeals Court Rejects Open Meetings Claims Against U of M

According to the Michigan Court of Appeals, informal meetings of the University of Michigan Board of Regents do not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act. The unanimous decision, in Detroit Free Press v. University of Michigan Regents (COA docket No. 328182), upheld a finding by the Court of Claims that the constitutional provision giving the universities autonomy, and requiring open meetings, does not create a requirement that the informal meetings be conducted openly.

Judge Amy Ronayne Krause, joined by Judge David Sawyer and Judge William Murphy, held that the Constitution stipulates that “formal sessions” of the governing boards of Michigan’s universities must be open to the public. The court also pointed out that the Supreme Court has held that formal sessions of a governing board do not include all sessions of the board, and informal, informational sessions – the meetings held before the formal meetings of the board – are not included in the Constitution’s definition.

FCC Looking to Change Public File Obligations

fcc-logo_dark-blueThe 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.

Legislation Speeds Up Public Notice For Contaminated Water

capitol3Under 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.

NAB Petitions FCC for Voluntary Use of Next-Gen TV

Gordon Smith_300
NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith

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.

FCC Says Pre-Auction Expenses May Be Reimbursed

fcc-logo_dark-blueAccording 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.

Meet your lawmakers – Attend the MAB Legislative Reception!

View More: 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!