Broadcast Law Blog

Broadcast Law Blog

FCC Announces Dates for Submitting “Long-Form” Applications by AM Stations that Filed for New FM Translators in Second Translator Window

Posted in AM Radio, Broadcast Auctions, FM Translators and LPFM

The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice announcing a filing window from April 18 through May 9 for “long-form” applications for new translators that were filed in the January 2018 window for Class A and B AM stations to seek new FM translators to rebroadcast their stations. The Public Notice also sets out the procedures for filing in this window. The window is for the filing of a complete Form 349 applications by applicants who were deemed to be “singletons,” i.e. their applications are not predicted to cause interference to any other translator applicant. The list of singletons is here.  The long-form application requires more certifications and technical information than that which was submitted during the initial filing window.

After the long-form application is submitted to the FCC, the application will be published in an FCC public notice of broadcast applications. Interested parties will have 15 days from that publication date to comment or object. If no comments are filed, and no other issues arise, the FCC’s Audio Division is known for its speed in processing translator applications so that grants might be expected for many of the applications within 60 days of the end of the window. Continue Reading

Solve for “X”:  NFL is to Super Bowl® as USOC is to Olympics® as NCAA is to X® (There Is More Than One Correct Answer!) – Trademarks and March Madness

Posted in Advertising Issues, Trademark

It was almost exactly one year ago that we reported that the National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a trademark infringement action in federal court against a company that ran online sports-themed promotions and sweepstakes under the marks “April Madness” and “Final 3.”  The NCAA prevailed because the defendant entered into an agreement not to use the marks, but failed to file an answer to the complaint.  A default judgment was entered.  On February 23, 2018, the NCAA filed a motion requesting an an award of attorneys’ fees against the defendant in the amount of $242,213.55.

The amount of attorneys’ fees incurred in a case that was resolved with relatively little resistance illustrates the level of importance that the NCAA places on taking action against activities that “play off” the NCAA Collegiate Basketball Playoffs.  Clearly, such activities continue to carry great risks.  Accordingly, following is an updated version of last year’s blog post on this subject.

With the NCAA Basketball Tournament about to begin, broadcasters, publishers and other businesses need to be wary about potential claims arising from their use 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. Continue Reading

Copyright Office Grants Second Extension of Comment Dates in Proceeding Looking at MVPD Reporting Obligations and the Definition of Cable System

Posted in Cable Carriage, Intellectual Property, Internet Video, On Line Media, Programming Regulations, Television

In December, we wrote about a proceeding initiated by the Copyright Office to review the reporting obligations of cable and satellite television systems related to the statutory license that permits those systems to carry the programming of local television stations.  Systems must report information including revenue and subscriber information that allow royalties to be computed.  This proceeding also asked for comments on the Copyright Office’s tentative conclusion that the Copyright Act’s definition of a cable system did not extend to online services, like those that had been proposed by Aereo and FilmOn.  The Copyright Office has announced a second extension of time to file comments in this proceeding.  Comments are now due June 14, with replies due on July 6, 2018.

It’s Political Broadcasting Season Again – What Broadcast Stations Should Be Thinking About Now, Before the Lowest Unit Rate Windows Open

Posted in Uncategorized

This week’s political primaries in Texas are but the first of many more election contests that will occur between now and November. Already, we are receiving client calls about the political rules, how they should be applied, and what stations should be considering in anticipation of the upcoming elections. I’ve discussed the general FCC issues to be considered by broadcasters in many different ways. In January, I conducted a webinar for two state broadcast associations on these issues, following a similar webinar that I conducted with the head of the FCC’s office of political programming back in November for about 20 additional state associations. The slides from the most recent webinar are available here. Our firm also has available a Guide to Political Broadcasting, here, that provides information about many topics that come up in this area every year. But, with the election still months away, and in many states primaries that don’t occur until the summer, are there issues that broadcasters should be considering today?

Yes – there are many such issues that broadcasters should be considering immediately. As we wrote here prior to the last Presidential election, it is important to start planning early for an election. As that article details, and as set out in our Political Broadcasting guide, there is much planning for lowest unit rates that needs to take place now – before the actual windows (45 days before the primary and 60 days before the general election) in which those rates apply. Stations are likely selling advertising schedules that will run during the windows later this year, and they are putting together advertising packages that will be offered to commercial advertisers during the window. Consideration needs to be given now as to how that advertising will be treated to avoid unwanted lowest unit rate implications during the window. Continue Reading

Next Media Regulation Modernization Item – Easing Transfer of Satellite TV Stations

Posted in Assignments and Transfers, Multiple Ownership Rules, Television

The FCC last week released its tentative agenda for its March open meeting. On it was a single item dealing with broadcast issues, a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to ease the paperwork involved in the sale of a satellite TV station. This item is another action as part of its Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative seeking to lessen the paperwork and regulatory burdens of broadcasters. Similar to other actions taken as part of this initiative (see our article here), this proposal is a small step to reduce burdens on a small class of broadcasters – but at least it is another step that is being taken in this initiative. The draft proposal will be considered at the FCC’s meeting scheduled for March 22.

Under current FCC rules, the FCC will authorize an owner to acquire a second full-power television station in a market, a station which will not count against FCC ownership limits, if the applicant can meet a three part test – (1) the station will not have city-grade overlap with the “parent” station, (2) the satellite station will serve an underserved area, and (3) a showing is made that there is no other owner ready to acquire an existing station or activate an unused channel and operate it as a stand-alone station. Satellite television stations were traditionally used in geographically-expansive rural markets to expand the coverage of a parent station to reach outlying areas. In more recent years, as the Commission abolished the requirement that the satellite primarily duplicate the programming of the parent station, these stations have sometimes been used to provide alternate programming in smaller markets unable to economically support an independent operation. The draft NPRM released by the FCC seeks to address the issue of what happens when such stations are sold. Continue Reading

FCC Announces Long-Form Application Deadline for AM Stations that Resolved Mutually Exclusive Situations in First Translator Window

Posted in AM Radio, FM Translators and LPFM

The FCC yesterday released a Public Notice announcing a filing window from March 14 to March 28 for “long-form” applications for new translators that were filed in last summer’s window for Class C and D AM stations to seek new FM translators to rebroadcast their stations. The Public Notice also sets the procedures for filing in this window. The window is for the filing of complete Form 349 applications by applicants who were deemed mutually exclusive in a notice released by the Commission last year (see our article here) but who were able to work out a settlement or technical solution to that mutual exclusivity in the window at the end of last year for resolving such conflicts. By resolving those situations of potential interference with other applicants, these applications can now be granted. The list of applicants who are invited to file the long-form application is here (in an Excel format). The long-form application requires more certifications and more specific technical information than that which was submitted during the initial filing window. It also allows for minor amendments to applications as long as they do not create any new conflicts.

After the long-form application is submitted to the FCC, the application will be published in an FCC public notice of broadcast applications. Interested parties will have 15 days from that publication date to comment or object. If no comments are filed, and no other issues arise, the FCC’s Audio Division is known for its speed in processing translator applications so that grants might be expected for many of the applications late within a month or two of the filing deadline. Continue Reading

The First EEO Audit of 2018 With a New Wrinkle – Notifications by Email and Responses Submitted Through the Online Public File

Posted in EEO Compliance/Diversity

On Friday, the FCC issued a Public Notice announcing its first EEO audit of 2018. The Notice lists the almost 300 radio and television stations that will be subject to the review as well as the rules that apply to that audit. And those rules are somewhat new.  First, the notice itself was not sent by mail, but instead by email – the first time that email has been used to deliver the notice of an EEO audit.  Some broadcasters who received the email seemed surprised and wondered if the email really was an official FCC communication, so the FCC included verification methods in the letter including a link to the Public Notice.  So, if you are listed on the Public Notice, you are subject to the audit.

Second, the procedure for responding to the audit is different.  No longer does the broadcaster subject to the audit have to submit paper copies of all of its documents to the FCC through the FCC Secretary’s office.  Instead, the response will be filed in the station’s online public file.  The response must be uploaded to the online public file by April 12.  There, the FCC can review that response (as can anyone else anywhere, at any time, as long as they have an internet connection).  The audit requires that the broadcaster submit their last two EEO Public File Reports (which should already be in the online public file) and backing data to support the outreach efforts.  Broadcasters subject to the audit should carefully review the audit letter to see the details of the filing. Continue Reading

March Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Including Online Public File for Radio and Biennial Ownership Reports, Effective Date of ATSC 3.0, Comments on TV National Ownership and Media Modernization, and GMR Extension

Posted in Broadcast Performance Royalty, Children's Programming and Advertising, Digital Television, EEO Compliance/Diversity, FM Radio, General FCC, Low Power Television/Class A TV, Multiple Ownership Rules, Music Rights, Public Interest Obligations/Localism, Television

March is one of those months where without the Annual EEO Public File Reports that come up for different states every other month, or without the Quarterly Issues Programs List and Children’s Television Report obligations that arise following the end of every calendar quarter. But this March has two very significant deadlines right at the beginning of the month – Online Public Files for radio and Biennial Ownership Reports – that will impose obligations on most broadcasters.

For radio stations, March 1 is the deadline for activating your online public inspection file. While TV stations and larger radio clusters in the Top 50 markets have already made the conversion to the online public file, for radio stations in smaller markets, the requirement that your file be complete and active is Thursday. As we wrote here, there are a number of documents that each station should be uploading to their file before the deadline (including Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and, if a station is part of an employment unit with 5 or more full-time employees, Annual EEO Public Inspection File Reports). As the FCC-hosted online public file date-stamps every document entered into the file, and as the file can be reviewed by anyone at anytime from anywhere in the world, stations need to be sure that they are timely uploading these documents to the file, as who knows who may be watching your compliance with FCC requirements. And this is not the only big obligation for broadcasters coming up in March. Continue Reading

Another Media Regulation Modernization Proposal – Abandon the Form 397 EEO Mid-Term Report (Though Maintain the EEO Performance Review)

Posted in AM Radio, EEO Compliance/Diversity, FM Radio, Television

At its meeting yesterday, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking suggesting the abolition of the EEO Mid-Term Report, FCC Form 397. That form is filed at the mid-point of the renewal term of TV stations with 5 or more full-time employees and radio clusters with 11 or more full-time employees (see our post here about the form). As the content of the report is principally made up of the broadcaster’s last two EEO Public Inspection File Reports, and those reports are available in a broadcasters online public inspection file (which should be in place for virtually all broadcast stations when the final radio stations covert to the online public file next week, see our post here), the FCC concluded that there is no real reason that these reports need to be separately submitted, and thus proposed its elimination.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking did suggest that there were issues on which comments would be appropriate. The one bit of information that would not be readily available without the filing of the Form 397 would be which TV stations have 5 full-time employees and which radio clusters have more than 11 full-timers. That is important as Congress required the mid-term review of the EEO performance of stations meeting these employment thresholds. So the FCC asks how that information should be tracked. It is also noteworthy that the FCC will continue to conduct the EEO mid-term review of stations meeting these employment thresholds even without the filing of the Form 397 reports. Continue Reading

Court Finds That Embedded Twitter Photo on Website May Subject Website Owner to Copyright Liability – Be Careful What You Post

Posted in Intellectual Property, On Line Media, Website Issues

Last week, a US District Court Judge in the influential Southern District of New York issued an opinion finding that the fact that a picture of New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady that was displayed on the websites of a number of media defendants was potentially infringing – even though the photo was not copied by the website owners and hosted on their servers. Instead, the photo was “embedded” on the websites and actually came from Twitter where it was hosted on servers maintained by that company. The Judge determined that because the photo automatically showed up on the defendants’ websites when those sites were visited by members of the public and appeared to visitors to be an integrated part of their websites, the mere fact that the photo was not hosted on the servers of the defendants, but instead on the server of Twitter, was not enough to provide a defense to the claim that the defendants had displayed the content without permission of the copyright holder. The right to “display” a copyrighted work is an exclusive right given to the copyright holder under Section 106 of the Copyright Act, meaning that the copyrighted work cannot be displayed without the permission of the copyright holder. As we wrote here, here and here, there have been many cases where photographers have sued broadcasters and other media companies for posting photos on their websites or even on their social media feeds without permission.

It had been widely accepted for the last decade that website owners were safe from copyright liability if they merely embedded content that was served from another site (e.g. social media sites like Twitter or YouTube) as contrasted to actually hosting the content on the website owner’s own server. This feeling of security stemmed from a case last decade where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals made the distinction between hosting content and merely linking to content on another site. In that case, the Perfect 10 case, the defendant hosted an image search site with thumbnail images of pictures (the thumbnails hosted on the site of the defendant), and when a visitor to the site clicked on the thumbnails, the image was expanded by launching the image on the hosting site. In that case, because the large photos that were displayed when the user clicked on the thumbnails were hosted on the plaintiff’s site, the defendant was not found to be infringing for displaying those larger photos. The Judge in last week’s case found some striking differences in the use of an embedded Twitter photo case that, she said, made clear that there should be no clear safe harbor from liability simply because the image was hosted on a site not owned by the defendants in this case. Continue Reading