In the last few weeks, I’ve twice had the occasion to summarize the legal issues facing broadcasters, and it amazes me at how many issue there are and, how quickly the issues are changing. On April 12, I did an update on these issue to the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters at their annual convention – the PowerPoint slides for which are available here. The week before, we prepared a summary of the issues facing TV broadcasters that was published in TV NewsCheck, here. It’s just over two weeks later, and already the issues that we highlighted have changed. Since we we wrote the TV NewsCheck article, a new issue for television broadcasters has arisen as to the definition of an MVPD – an issue that could have ramifications on all sorts of issues – including rules concerning must carry and retransmission consent. In recent weeks, the FCC has also revised its EAS rules to allow text-to-speech systems to read the alerts that come in from FEMA, the National Weather Service and other authorities. And the FCC meeting that will be held later this week will deal with many issues of importance to commercial broadcasters – including spectrum sharing (the first step in the Commission’s plan to clear some of the TV band so that it can be repurposed for wireless users) and the online public inspection file. Also on the agenda is a noncommercial item that will look at broadcast stations raising finds for third parties. That topic is an interesting one – coming only a short period after one US Court of Appeals Circuit suggested that Federal prohibitions on noncommercial radio stations accepting ads from political and issue advertisers were unconstitutional.
In discussing issues with the Oklahoma Broadcasters, there were still many questions about the FCC requirement for a nondiscrimination certification in commercial station’s advertising contracts (see our summary of this issue here and here). Also a hot topic, particularly in light of the discussion of the online public file, was the question of what needs to go in the public file, and how long it needs to be retained (see our Checklist for the Public Inspection File, here). The rules for on-air contests, and the required on-air disclosures of the rules for such contests, were also much discussed (see our summaries here and here). And, of course, with the November election looming, questions about broadcasters’ political obligations were on the minds of many (see our Guide to Political Broadcasting, here). Many, many issues face broadcasters – and these presentations only touch the surface.