Category Archives: March 2017

Relaxed Rules Announced for FM Translator Locations

According to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC has moved forward with the new rules to relax the limits on where licensees of AM stations can use FM translators to rebroadcast their stations. The new rules allow the location of these translators so that their 1 mv/m coverage area does not extend beyond 25 miles from the AM station or beyond the AM station’s 2 mv/m contour – whichever is greater. Up to now, the translator had to stay within the lesser of those two areas.

According to a Federal Register notice, the new rules are effective on April 10.

Oxenford: Radio Ownership Subcaps on the Table for FCC Review

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

We’ve written (see, e.g. our articles here, here and here) about the pending petitions asking the FCC to reconsider decisions reached last year to end the UHF discount, to leave the TV local ownership rules in place and to make attributable new TV Joint Sales Agreements, and to not adopt any change in the FCC radio ownership rules in “embedded markets.” Recently, that list of items on the table before the FCC has expanded, with a number of radio groups making a concerted push to change the FCC rules on ownership “subcaps” – limiting the number of AM or FM stations that can be owned in a single market. Thus, while a broadcaster can own up to 8 radio stations in the largest markets, no more than 5 can be either AM or FM. In the smallest markets, broadcasters can own up to 3 as long as they do not exceed half the stations in a market, but only 2 can be of the same service. The new petitions seek to eliminate those subcaps, allowing owners to own up to the maximum number of stations in a market without regard to whether those stations are AMs or FMs.

A group of radio broadcasters have filed a letter with the FCC asking that these subcaps be abolished, citing the change in the media landscape in the 20 years since the rules were adopted. A more detailed economic study was submitted by a Syracuse radio broadcaster, here, showing that the growth in digital and mobile advertising to local companies already exceeds the share of advertising enjoyed by radio generally, and is likely to grow in the coming years. Google alone, according to this analysis, has as much local advertising in Syracuse as the entire radio industry. To compete against these growing new media entities that are eating into local advertising dollars, the radio broadcasters have asked that they be allowed to own more radio stations in a single service – AM or FM – than currently allowed.

As the FCC has told the Court of Appeals (where some parties filed an appeal of last September’s ownership decision) that they plan to review the entire ownership decision, not just those areas singled out by petitions for reconsideration, the radio ownership issue is now before the FCC. There has been some limited grumbling against these new proposals, some observers suggesting that AM radio would be further imperiled if big broadcasters gave up their AM holdings to pursue the ownership of more FM stations. Of course, if that were to happen, there would be nothing stopping ethnic programmers and others who are making more and more uses of the AM spectrum to acquire more AM stations, perhaps at lower prices, to pursue their innovative programming. This is an issue that will be debated in the coming months, as broadcasters adjust to the reality that all of the old rules are now subject to reexamination by this new FCC.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline.  Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your membership.

Senators Push Open Records Proposal Despite Opposition

capitol3Three Republican Senators plan to introduce legislation mirroring a House package of bills that expands the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include the governor’s office and the legislature, despite their caucus leader’s resistance to the idea. According to a report in Gongwer, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-30) has opposed expanding FOIA to the legislative branch, specifically citing concerns over communications between constituents and their legislators.

But, both the House package and the bills expected to be introduced by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R-26) and Senator Rick Jones (R-24) exempt communications between constituents and their legislator from being disclosed. The bills would remove the current FOIA exemptions for the governor, lieutenant governor, and executive office employees and create a new part to the act, the Legislative Open Records Act, which would subject the Legislature to the disclosure provisions of FOIA. Records currently exempt from disclosure under FOIA would remain exempt as well.

I Vaccinate Campaign Underway!

logoOn March 20, a press conference was held in downtown Lansing to announce the kickoff of the I Vaccinate Campaign, a project adopted by the MAB Board of Directors.  The campaign is designed to increase immunizations in the state as Michigan has the 4th highest rate of vaccination waivers in the nation.

In a letter to broadcasters, MAB President/CEO Karole White wrote: “Our members have joined together on other issues in the past to eradicate unnecessary risks to our children’s health. We need your help to educate parents, caregivers and grandparents about the risks of not vaccinating children.  We ask all stations in Michigan to help reach the goal of immunizing all Michigan children by covering this issue in your news products, placing the interview clips on your website, sharing or tweeting on Twitter and creating Facebook posts.”

Public Service announcements for both radio and TV, as well as talking points and other materials are available for download on the MAB website here.

White spoke at the press conference about the broadcaster’s role in both the campaign and overall service to their communities:

FCC Post-Incentive Auction Transition Workshop Video Available on Demand

FCCvideo_300On March 13, the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force and the Media Bureau held a public workshop on post-auction transition procedures and the following agenda topics:

  • Overview and incentive auction status update;
  • Step-by-step review of the procedures for broadcast stations filing applications for construction permits during the 39-month transition period;
  • Review of procedures for submitting bank account information to ensure payment of reverse auction winnings and reimbursement of eligible expenses; and
  • Question & Answer session with panel of FCC staff.

A recording of this event is now available on-demand for viewing here.

SEO 101: Search Engine Optimization and Keywords for Radio Broadcasters

Seth Resler
Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

As radio broadcasters, we want to use Content Marketing as a framework for our digital strategy: We create content on our website, then share that content in places that our listeners will find it. For example, we might write a blog post and share it on Facebook. Once people click on the link to that content and come back to the station’s website, we encourage them to take a specific action, such as enter a contest or sign up for our email club.

Resler1Radio broadcasters tend to focus on social media when trying to drive traffic to their website, but there’s another channel that should not be ignored: search engines. Just as your listeners probably visit Facebook on a regular basis, they also frequent sites like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. Don’t ignore the power of Search Engine Optimization.

What is Search Engine Optimization?
“Search Engine Optimization,” or “SEO,” is simply the art of getting your content to show up in the results of search engines like Google so that more people visit your site. If you’ve ever searched for something in Google, you know that the search engine produces both organic (unpaid) results and sponsored (paid) results. When we refer to SEO, we are talking about getting your station’s website to show up in the organic results.
Resler2You may also hear the term “Search Engine Marketing” (SEM). SEM is an umbrella term that includes SEO under it. SEM also includes other tactics, such as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. PPC advertising is what gets your station into the sponsored search engine results.

Why Does SEO Matter for Radio?
When I first started at Jacobs Media, I worked with a radio station that hosts a huge annual concert. The name of the concert is not the same as the name of the radio station. By looking at their Google Analytics reports, we could see that on the day that the radio station announced the lineup for their concert, their website traffic shot through the roof. We discovered that the increase in traffic was coming from Google.

What were these people typing into Google that was bringing them to the station’s site? Google Analytics told us that they were typing in the name of the concert. In other words, people heard the concert announcement on the radio, then went to Google to search for the concert so they could get more information.

Unfortunately, the radio station had not optimized their website for search engines, so the blurb in the Google result displayed the incorrect date for the concert and listed a band that wasn’t playing that year. Moreover, the link that Google was directing people to was not the correct page on the station’s website. Listeners may not have found the concert information they were looking for. This could have negatively impacted the number of people who came to the concert. Concert attendance, of course, can have a big impact on ticket and sponsorship sales.

This is just one example of how SEO can affect a radio station’s bottom line. Your radio station should take the same care with search engines that it does with social media; both can drive an enormous amount of traffic to your station’s website when used properly.

How Does SEO Work?
Search engines like Google want people to find what they’re looking for. If a Google user doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll stop using the site and go to a different search engine instead. So Google has a vested interest in making sure that it puts the most relevant content at the top of its results.

Google uses an algorithm to do this. That algorithm is a closely guarded secret, much like the formula for Coca-Cola. Google also tweaks that algorithm from time to time. So rather than try to game Google’s algorithm, your best bet is simply to create compelling content that people will search for. The more high quality content you create, the more web traffic that search engines like Google will send your way.

If you create content that isn’t very good, Google won’t want to put it at the top of its search results. Google looks for signals that the content it puts atop its search results or both relevant and high quality.

There are some basic steps you can take to make it easier for Google to figure out that your content is both relevant and high quality. I’ll discuss those next week.

When people go to a search engine, they type a word or phrase into the search box. These are called the “keywords.” As your radio station maps out an SEO strategy, the first important question is, “What are people typing in when they’re looking for our content?” In other words, what are the keywords for your radio station’s website?

Different pages on your website may have different keywords. For example, while your call letters may be a keyword for the entire site, the word “Weezer” may only be a keyword for some pages. The listener who does a Google search for “WKRP morning show” is looking for something different than the listener who types in “WKRP Weezer acoustic performance.” Note that you’re not just using SEO to send people to your website’s homepage; sometimes you’re using it to send people to a specific page within the site. Every time you create a piece of content for your website, ask yourself, “What would people type into Google if they were looking for this?”

Take some time to brainstorm some of the keywords people might type in when looking for your radio station’s website. They may include words like:

  • The station’s call letters
  • The station’s format or music genres
  • The name of the morning show or on-air personalities
  • The names of syndicated programming or specialty shows
  • The names of benchmark features
  • The names of signature events, concerts, or contests
  • The names of core artists
  • Words like “concerts,” “interviews,” or “playlist”

Keyword Tools
There are a number of tools that you can use to help you figure out what your keywords are. Here are two from Google that you should know:

1. Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool: Google provides a tool to help you see how different keywords might drive traffic back to your site. Google provides this tool for free because they hope that you’ll eventually decide to spend money on sponsored search results, too. To use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, you will need to set up an Adwords account (but you don’t have to spend any money). Then, answer some questions about who you are targeting, and Google will return a list of suggestions.

Here, I’ve used the tool to find out what keywords English-speaking people in North America might type in when searching for a “radio broadcasting consultant.” As you can see, Google produced a list of related phrases, showing how many searches each term receives, how much competition there is for each term (how many people are bidding on that term in Adwords), and so on.Resler3
2. Google Trends: Google Trends is a free tool that allows you to see how many searches a specific phrase receives. You can even compare different keywords. Here, I’ve compared the number of Google searches for “Howard Stern” to the number of searches for “Ryan Seacrest.”
Resler4Long-Tail Keywords
When I first moved to the Detroit area, I had to find a new dentist. I didn’t type “dentist” into Google. That would not have produced the results that I was looking for. I didn’t even type in “Detroit dentist.” Instead, I typed in “Clawson dentist,” because Clawson is the small Detroit suburb that I live in. When a phrase uses specific words to narrow the search, that’s called “long-tail keywords.” The name comes the classic marketing book, The Long Tail by Chris Anderson.

When people are looking for your radio station, they probably aren’t going to just type in “radio station.” They’re more likely to type in something like “Seattle alternative radio station.” Because long-tail keywords are more specific, they will produce more relevant search results. “WKRP morning show” and “WKRP Weezer performance” are both long-tail keywords, and will direct people to different pages on your site. Keep this in mind as you try to determine the keywords for different pages on your website.

There are a number of other resources that can help you determine the best keywords for your website content, and you can even hire companies to help you with this. Search Engine Optimization has grown into a cottage industry over the years. If your station is just getting started, however, you can use these free tools and some educated guesses to figure out what the keywords are for different pages on your website.

Once you know the phrases that people are typing into search engines when they’re looking for your content, you can optimize that content to so these search engines are more likely to include it in their results. This will drive more traffic to your site.

I’ll give you some actionable steps for optimizing your content in next week’s column. In the meantime, if you’d like help with your radio station’s digital strategy, please contact me.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at or 1-800-968-7622.

It’s Madness! Be Wary of Using the NCAA’s Trademarks

Mitchell Stabbe
Mitchell Stabbe

By: Mitchell Stabbe, Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP via the Broadcast Law Blog

Less than a week ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a trademark infringement action in federal court against a company that runs an online sports-themed promotions and contests under the marks “April Madness” and “Final 3.” The NCAA is seeking injunctive relief, damages, the defendant’s profits, punitive damages and an award of attorneys’ fees.

Last year, I wrote about the risks of publishing ads or engaging in promotional activities that “play off” the NCAA Collegiate Basketball Playoffs. Clearly, such activities continue to carry great risks. Accordingly, I am republishing last year’s post on this subject:

It’s March Madness! Know the NCAA’s Rulebook or Risk A Foul Call Against the Unauthorized Use of Its Trademarks

With the NCAA Basketball Tournament about to begin, broadcasters, publishers and other businesses need to be wary about potential claims arising from their use of terms and logos associated with the tournament, including March Madness,® The Big Dance,® Final Four® or Elite Eight,® each of which is a federally registered trademark.

The NCAA Aggressively Polices the Use of its Trademarks

It has been estimated that, last year, the NCAA earned $900 million in revenue associated with the NCAA Basketball tournament. Moreover, its returns from the tournament have historically grown each year. Most of this income comes from broadcast licensing fees. It also has a substantial amount of revenue from licensing March Madness® and its other marks for use by advertisers. As part of those licenses, the NCAA agrees to stop non-authorized parties from using any of the marks. Indeed, if the NCAA did not actively police the use of its marks by unauthorized companies, advertisers might not feel the need to get a license or, at least, to pay as much as they do for the license. Thus, the NCAA has a strong incentive to put on a full court press to prevent non-licensees from associating their goods and services with the NCAA tournament through unauthorized use of its trademarks.

Activities that May Result in a Whistle

The NCAA acknowledges that media entities can sell advertising that accompanies the entity’s coverage of the NCAA championships. Even so, as discussed in greater deal in my earlier discussion of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of Super Bowl-related promotions, unless authorized by the NCAA, any of the following activities may result in a cease and desist demand:

    • Accepting advertising that refers to the NCAA, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, March Madness, The Big Dance, Final Four, Elite Eight or any other NCAA trademark or logo (The NCAA has posted a list of its trademarks here.)
      • Example: An ad from a retailer that starts, “Come Get Your Big Screen TV in Time to Watch March Madness.”
    • Local programming that uses any NCAA trademark as part of its name.
      • Example: A locally produced program previewing the tournament called “The Big Dance: Pick a Winning Bracket.”
    • Selling the right to sponsor the overall coverage by a broadcaster, website or print publication of the tournament.
      • Example: During the sports segment of the local news, introducing the section of the report on tournament developments something such as “March Madness, brought to you by [name of advertiser].”
    • Sweepstakes or giveaways that include any NCAA trademark in its name.
      • Example: “The Final Four Giveaway.”
    • Sweepstakes or giveaways that offer tickets to a tournament game as a prize.
      • Example: the sweepstakes name may not be a problem, but including game tickets as a prize will raise an objection by the NCAA.
    • Events or parties that use any NCAA trademark to attract attendees.
      • Example: a radio station sponsors a happy hour where fans can watch a tournament game and prominently places any of the NCAA marks on signage.

There is one more common pitfall that is unique to the NCAA Basketball: tournament brackets used in office pools where participants predict the winners of each game in advance of the tournament. The NCAA’s view is that the unauthorized placement of advertising within an NCAA bracket or corporate sponsorship of a tournament bracket is misleading and constitutes an infringement of its intellectual property rights. Accordingly, it says that any advertising should be outside of the bracket space and should clearly indicate that the advertiser or its goods or services are not sponsored by, approved by or otherwise associated with the NCAA or its championship tournament.

Note that none of these restrictions prevents media companies from using any of the marks in providing customary news coverage of or commentary on the tournament. Just be sure that they are just used to identify the tournament and its stages, and don’t in any way imply that there is an association between the station itself or any sponsor who does not have the rights to claim such association and the NCAA.

A Surprising History of “March Madness”

The NCAA was not the first to use “March Madness” as a trademark in connection with basketball tournaments. In fact, beginning in the 1940’s, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) used it in connection with the Illinois state high school basketball championship playoffs.

The NCAA also may not have been the first to license the use of “March Madness.” Beginning in the early 1990’s, the IHSA licensed it for use by other state high school basketball tournaments and by corporations.

Moreover, the NCAA did not originate the use of “March Madness” to promote its collegiate basketball tournament. Rather, a CBS broadcaster is credited with first using “March Madness” in 1982 to describe the tournament. As CBS was licensed by the NCAA to air the tournament, the NCAA apparently claims that as its date of first use.

Finally, the NCAA was not the first to register “March Madness” as a trademark. That honor went to a company called Intersport, Inc., which used the mark for sports programs it produced and registered the mark in 1989.

So, how did the NCAA get to claim ownership of the March Madness® trademark? The short answer is through litigation and negotiations over a period of many years. Although it has also been able to obtain federal registrations for Final Four® and Elite Eight,® it was late to the gate and was unable to snag “Sweet Sixteen” or “Sweet 16,” which are registered to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA). (The NCAA, however, has the KHSAA’s approval to register “NCAA Sweet Sixteen” and “NCAA Sweet 16.”)

The Final Score

Having invested so much in its trademarks, the NCAA takes policing its trademark rights very seriously. Even so, although the NCAA may send a cease-and-desist letter over the types of activities discussed above, some of its claims would not be a slam-dunk as there may be arguments to be made on both sides of these issues. If you plan to accept advertising incorporating an NCAA trademark or logo or plan to use an NCAA trademark or logo other than in the context of reporting on the tournament, you should consult with an experienced trademark attorney so you can make an informed decision about the level of risk that you may be taking on.

MAB Board Adopts I-Vaccinate as Statewide Community Service Campaign

logoMichigan has one of the highest vaccine-waiver rates in kindergartners in the country, three times the national average, according to the CDC. The number of kindergartners getting vaccine waivers is growing. In five years it’s increased 23%

There is a great deal of false information out there about immunizations and the MDHHS has turned to the MAB, as they have with other tragic health issues and is asking members to help by shedding light on the subject.

Next week, broadcasters will receive a participation packet on how your station may get involved. Join in the fight to prevent childhood diseases. Answer the call of your state and your community.

This is Sunshine Week

swlogo2-300x176Tell us what your station is doing to promote Sunshine Week. We
would like to feature you in our Newsletter!

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Many citizens take our freedoms for granted. It is the job of a “free press” to be the eyes and ears of the citizens and to question government, to hold government accountable. We are not the villains, we are the good guys. If we did not question government who would diligently seek the truth? At a time in history when the integrity of “the media” is being questioned by powerful people in high offices for their own gain, we need to remind our audience and ourselves what it is like in other countries where freedom of the press does not exist. Look at those governments and ask ourselves, is this the type of government we want in America?

Help your viewers and listeners understand the value of the First Amendment to their lives, Sunshine Week March 12-18.

Join in the celebration of Sunshine week. To access the Sunshine Week Toolkit, click here.