Category Archives: Legislative Update

FCC Gets Approval for New Economic Analysis Office

The Federal Communications Commission has received approval from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the Office of Management and Budget to create a new Office of Economics and Analytics.

FCC chair Ajit Pai has advocated for a number of years that the agency needs to do more economic cost-benefit analysis of its rules to gauge their impact on the economy. The FCC signaled the office would be up and running by the end of the year. The office will bring together approximately 100 staffers including economists, attorneys and data specialists from across the FCC with the goal of improving the analysis and data usage.

Auction oversight will be moved under the new office. As part of the revamp, the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis will be eliminated and its staffers moved into the new office, as well as some staffers from other offices. Acting chief of the new office will be Giulia McHenry from the Office of Strategic Planning and Analysis, who used to be the chief economist at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees government spectrum as the FCC does private spectrum, as well as serving as White House communications policy adviser.

NAB Files with the FCC on the Impact to Radio in TV Repack

NABThe National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed comments with the FCC calling for radio stations to be protected in the repacking of the Television spectrum. The comments argue that proposed sliding scale of reimbursement for radio would have “devastating consequences” on FMs, particularly for small stations.

Earlier this year, Congress allocated $50 million to create a radio reimbursement fund to help broadcasters pay for the construction of auxiliary facilities to avoid going silent as a result of the television repack process. As the FCC develops plans, both NAB and National Public Radio have urged the agency to reject a proposed “sliding scale” for determining how much an FM station is able to recoup for its repack-associated funding.

“The FCC chose to develop a repacking approach that did not consider FM radio stations, make any effort to minimize disruption to those stations or allow sufficient time to ensure that work could be completed during off-peak hours,” the NAB filing stated. “In implementing legislation intended to mitigate the consequences of those policy choices, the Commission should not adopt a punitive policy that would unnecessarily cut off reimbursement based on wholly arbitrary conceptions of the effects associated with temporary service disruptions.”

Whitmer Names Transition Team

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer has named Mark Bernstein as director of her transition team, according to the latest report in Gongwer News.

Other transition team members will include state’s public figures Flint pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz and her predecessors as Senate Democratic leader, Mike Prusi.

FCC Reminder About Activation of the Online Public Inspection File – Potential Impact of Noncompliance at License Renewal Time

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP

By March 1 of 2018, all radio stations were to have activated their online public file. We wrote about how that activation should be done here, and answered other questions about the online public file for radio here. Yet, from my own review, and from what I have heard from engineers who conduct reviews of broadcaster’s FCC compliance for the Alternate Broadcast Inspection Programs sponsored by state broadcast associations, there remain stations that have not yet complied with the requirement. The FCC has issued a reminder to all stations that their files are supposed to be live, and said that the FCC itself will be activating the file for any station that has not already done so by November 15. If they have to activate your public file, they may note that they had to do so, and that may have consequences for license renewals that will be filed for radio starting next year.

For any stations that have not activated their file, you really need to go to that file now and make sure that it is active and that all the required material is in the file. While the FCC will be automatically uploading copies of documents that are electronically filed at the FCC, every station has certain obligations where their own employees need to upload information into the file. For instance, every full-power station needs to upload on a quarterly basis its Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. As we wrote here, these lists are particularly important as they are the only way in which a licensee reports on how it served its community. With license renewals for radio starting in June 2019, a review of the online public file will likely be part of the FCC’s review of the renewal application. Not having these lists, or not having activated the file at all, will likely lead to FCC fines. So check out your online public inspection file, make sure that it is active, and that the information is complete and accurate. Failing to do so may end up costing substantial sums should the FCC find your compliance lacking – which they now can do from the comfort of their own computer, any time of any day.

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 MAB membership.

FCC Votes to Free Up Spectrum for Unlicensed Use

According to the report in Broadcasting & Cable, the FCC has voted unanimously in support of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to open up 1,200 Mhz of spectrum for unlicensed use, five times the current unlicensed spectrum, with rules to protect against interference with incumbent users.

The FCC is opening up the 6 GHz band of spectrum to unlicensed devices using automatic frequency control (AFC) devices to prevent interference with licensed users. All the commissioners pointed to the need to relieve congestion in the wireless band, including under the direction of Congress in the Mobile Now Act, which tasked the FCC with finding more spectrum for 5G.

A copy of the FCC press release is here.

FCC Eliminates Broadcasters’ Obligations to File Paper Copies of Contracts

For nearly 80 years, the FCC’s rules required broadcasters to file paper copies of various types of documents relating to the control and operation of their stations. Section 73.3613 of the FCC’s rules requires broadcasters to file with the FCC certain contracts and instruments relating to:

  • Showing the governance of the license entity (e.g., articles of incorporation and bylaws);
  • Options and other documents related to future ownership rights, joint sales and time brokerage agreements; and
  • Television network affiliation agreements.

On October 24, The FCC voted unanimously to eliminate this requirement. In eliminating the requirement to file such documents with the Commission, the FCC reasoned that the paper filing rule not only imposed unnecessary burdens on stations, but was redundant with the OPIF and Ownership Report requirements; as a result, the requirement did little to serve the public.

NAB, NABEF Launch New Toolkit

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the NAB Education Foundation (NABEF) unveiled an online toolkit to help journalists cover sensitive stories involving religion as part of the “Awareness in Reporting” initiative. The website link on the subject can be found here.

The goal behind the project is to provide guidelines and recommendations for local radio and television station newsrooms, as well as journalism students, for covering religion and/or faith-based stories and issues.

Schuette campaign cancels planned TV ads outside Detroit market

Bill Schuette

Republican Bill Schuette’s gubernatorial campaign has canceled planned TV ads across Michigan in the final week of the race, except in the Detroit market.

On Tuesday, the campaign pulled-the-plug on $445,000 worth of ads on broadcast stations in Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, Traverse City and Marquette. A planned $441,000 ad buy in metro Detroit was left intact.

DTMB Expanding Emergency Communications

The Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) has partnered with Harris Communications to expand the technology behind the Public Safety Communications System (PSCS). The goal of the partnership is to provide local emergency services with options for local communications while still allowing them to connect to the statewide system.

“No single emergency communications system – no matter how large or complex – can meet its communications challenges alone,” Brad Stoddard, director of the PSCS, said in a statement. “Today’s systems demand new partnerships, achieving together what no one organization can accomplish alone.”