Here are some of the regulatory developments of the last week of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • At this week’s FCC March Open Meeting, the Commissioners unanimously adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry that seek comments on whether the FCC should modify aspects of the Emergency Alert System – which could affect broadcasters in the requirements for reporting false EAS alerts and the updating of state EAS plans. The FCC also asks for comments on whether it can order the delivery of emergency alerts over streaming services.  We wrote, here, about the proposal when it was initially released.
  • If you are planning to file an application with the FCC soon, note that new fees for broadcast applications take effect April 19, 2021. The FCC based its changes in the fees on its analysis of the FCC staff resources used to process and review each filing.  (Federal Register)
  • Two members of the US House of Representatives have introduced the Modern Television Act of 2021. The bill from Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Communications Subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) seeks to modify the provisions of the Communications and Copyright Acts governing the carriage of television stations by cable and satellite systems.  Similar bills have been introduced by Congressman Scalise in previous sessions of Congress.  Among its changes, the bill would eliminate the compulsory copyright license allowing cable systems to carry programs on local television stations without negotiations with the copyright holders of the station’s programs (leaving those rights to be determined by the marketplace), and it would replace the current open-ended retransmission consent negotiations to set the fees paid by MVPDs to TV stations for the carriage of their programming with a binding arbitration process.  (Press Release)(2019 Version of the Bill)
  • A bill introduced by a bipartisan group of House members and senators seeks to allow news outlets like local broadcasters to collectively negotiate with tech powerhouses like Facebook and Google for compensation for the distribution of their content. This proposal is more limited than a similar law which recently received so much publicity when enacted in Australia.  The National Association of Broadcasters supports passage of the bill.  (Press Release)(2019 Version of the Bill)
  • The FCC’s Audio Division entered into consent decrees with two noncommercial stations over unspecified public file violations. Both stations in their license renewal applications certified that all required documents had been uploaded to their public files, but the FCC apparently thought differently.  The consent decrees are not for political file violations, but carry some of the same requirements, including naming of a compliance officer, putting in place a compliance plan and written compliance manual, implementing a training program, and reporting to the FCC in a year whether the station complied with the terms of the decree and timely uploaded all required documents to the public file.  These consent decrees serve as a good reminder that the FCC reviews a station’s online public file during the license renewal process and can easily determine if documents are missing.  (Consent Decree Example)
  • With the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament now underway, we turned the keys of the blog over to our partner, Mitch Stabbe, to write a two-part series about how broadcasters can navigate the use of the terms and logos associated with the tournament to steer clear of legal liability. (Part 1)  (Part 2)
  • We also covered on the blog this week the FCC’s sponsorship identification requirements, how extended periods when a station is silent and not broadcasting can lead to license renewal problems, and a recent case involving a lawsuit by Dr. Seuss’ estate that shows that fair use does not cover as many “parodies” of copyrighted works as broadcasters may think.