While many broadcasters have been watching Capitol Hill as Congress debates the issues surrounding the extension of satellite TV’s copyright permission to retransmit over-the-air television signals, and the attempts to add other provisions to the bill that could affect television stations, there are a number of issues teed up at the FCC that could also affect the industry. In the tentative agenda for the September 30 FCC open meeting, there are two issues being considered that have impact on TV. One has received much press coverage is the repeal of the sports blackout rule that leads to the blackout of local coverage of NFL games when the game is not sold out. From a blog post by the Chairman (available here), and statements of other commissioners, it appears that this rule is headed for repeal – though the actual blackouts may continue by contract rather than FCC mandate.
The other issue on the agenda that has received less press, and about which less is known, is changes to the rules on white-spaces devices, those wireless devices that have been authorized to operate on a non-interference basis in the portions of the TV band that are not being used in particular markets. We wrote about the adoption of the current rules, here, and we will be watching to see what changes to these rules are adopted later this month. Also on the agenda, with possible relevance to television and other media companies, is an item to further consider how to regulate the use of wireless microphones.While not on the agenda of the open meeting, there are other items on the FCC’s list of orders that are ‘circulating” among the Commissioners – meaning that they could come out at any time without being adopted at the open meeting. We don’t know much more about these matters except what can be gleaned from their titles. One appears to propose to make revisions to OET 69, the standard for predicting interference between TV stations that is the subject of the NAB appeal of the incentive auction rulemaking (about which we wrote here), and seeks public comment on those proposed revisions.
Also on circulation is a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking dealing with TV translators and LPTV stations and how those stations will be treated after the upcoming incentive auction. In the same vein, the FCC proposes to resolve the issue of whether current construction permits for translators and LPTV stations that are about to expire will be extended, as permittees are reluctant to spend money to construct new facilities if their stations could be bumped out of existence by the upcoming spectrum auction and repacking of the television band. We wrote about the FCC’s request for comment on this issue here.
Obviously, there are a number of issues pending for TV broadcasters that are all to be considered in the short term. Keep watching to see how these matters may affect your operations.