Category Archives: Legislative Update

FCC Proposes FY 2016 Regulatory Fee Schedule

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released proposed fiscal year 2016 regulatory fee schedule. The agency is looking to collect the $384,012,497 with $133.97 million coming from radio and television stations. The new schedule adds a class for radio broadcasters who serve 3,000,001-6,000,000 people, and sets fees on a standardized incremental increase scale as the population served by the licensees increases. The fees range from $690 for a Class C AM in areas serving under 25,000 in population to $17,175 for FM Classes B, C, C0, C1, and C2 for stations serving over 6 million in population.

See the full proposed schedule here.

Committee Approves Bills, Opening Legislative, Governor Records

capitol3A package of bills creating the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) and extending FOIA provisions to the Governor’s office was unanimously approved by the House Oversight and Ethics Committee.

There were a couple key changes. Lawmakers added language empowering the administrator of the Legislative Council to recommend disciplinary action to the Speaker of the House or the majority leader of the Senate if the administrator determines that the House or Senate charged an excessive fee or failed to disclose the information on a timely basis. The bills now go to the full House Chamber for a vote.

FCC Publishes Final List of Spectrum Auction Bidder Applicants

On May 12, the FCC released a public notice announcing the complete and incomplete applications for the forward auction. The forward auction will see wireless carriers and other participants bid on spectrum in the 600 megahertz (MHz) band relinquished by TV broadcasters. It is scheduled to launch two days after the close of the reverse auction, which starts May 31.

Webinar: Online Public Files…Radio, You’re up Next!

WebinarThursday, June 2 at 1pm Eastern
Presented by David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP

The FCC has just announced the effective date of the new rules requiring that radio stations maintain their public files in the FCC’s online public file system. The June 24 deadline is only for top 50 market stations at this time; however, we anticipate that eventually all stations will be required to have their public file available online.

David Oxenford - ColorD.C. Attorney David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, in Washington, will join us online to explain the new requirements.

While the new rules will initially apply only to stations in the Top 50 markets that operate in clusters with five or more full-time employees, all stations may want to listen in as some may be interested in making their conversion early. Even if they do not, all stations will need to fully comply by March 1, 2018, except for those who seek and obtain a waiver of the rules.

The session will discuss: what documents need to be placed in the files, the timing for compliance, and the potential for waivers.

This Webex meeting is FREE for MAB members!
Register here.

FCC Announces Effective Dates for Radio Online Public File Requirements

The MAB is presenting a FREE webinar on this topic for members on Thursday, June 2 at 1pm.  For more information, click here.

According to the FCC, commercial radio broadcasters in the top 50 Nielsen markets, with five or more full-time employees, must start using the FCC’s new online public inspection file on Friday, June 24. This date has been set based on the FCC’s intention to publish the new rule in the Federal Register on May 25, with the effective date being 30 days after that. New documents must go into the online file right away; older existing documents will be due for online posting within six months after the effective date.

All non-commercial educational radio broadcast stations, commercial radio broadcast stations in the top 50 Nielsen markets with fewer than five full-time employees, and all commercial radio broadcast stations in markets below the top 50 or outside all markets will be exempt until March 1, 2017. Letters and emails from the public must still be retained by all commercial broadcast licensees but are not to be uploaded to the online file.

House Approves Bill Blocking Petition Signatures Older Than 180 Days

capitol3Last week, Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve Senate Bill 776. This legislation prohibits the state from counting signatures older than 180 days that were collected for ballot proposals and constitutional amendments. SB 776 passed 57-52 over the objection of Democrats. The bill now goes to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

This means that, beginning immediately, petition signatures for constitutional amendments or initiated legislation collected 180 days before the proposals are turned into the state will not count. Backers of one of the marijuana legalization proposals have been pushing for the change to allow signatures older than 180 days.

House Minority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) offered two amendments to put 2017 as the enacting year for the legislation so the current ballot proposals would not be affected, but the amendment failed.

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
www.broadcastlawblog.com

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.