Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- In a speech to the Media Institute, FCC Commissioner Starks spoke of the importance of diversity in media ownership and how it should be considered in making any decisions on revisions to the media ownership rules. In addition, the Commissioner stated that a proposal is now circulating among the Commissioners to regularly gather details from broadcasters on the race and gender of their employees. That information has not been collected for almost 20 years after questions were raised about the constitutionality of the use of such data in assessing broadcasters hiring practices. The text of the Commissioner’s speech is here.
- Commissioner Carr issued a statement arguing that the Commission should not interfere with a broadcast station’s newsroom decisions following a complaint filed by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office about a TV station’s coverage of its office. [Complaint and Carr Statement]. We looked at this complaint and similar cases and the role of the First Amendment in broadcast regulation, here.
- The NAB released a study prepared by BIA Advisory Services finding that social media and other online platforms underpay broadcasters by billions of dollars each year for use of their content, undermining the economic support for local news that these stations provide. [NAB Statement and Study]. NAB President Gordon Smith at the NAB Leadership Conference this week mentioned this report and Congressional proposals to remedy this situation. [Smith Statement]. We wrote here about the details of the pending legislative proposal to give broadcasters more bargaining power with tech platforms.
- The regulation of online platforms was much discussed at the Leadership Conference and has otherwise been in the news. In another article, we wrote about how this regulation (including reforms of Section 230 which insulates online platforms from liability for content posted by others) could affect advertising on such platforms.
- As we noted in last week’s update, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that sets out its tentative plan for assessing broadcast regulatory fees to be collected before October 1 of this year, with comments due on or before June 3 and reply comments due by June 18. (Federal Register). The FCC’s proposals include increases in some broadcast fees and questions as to whether the Commission needs to accommodate broadcasters and other regulated companies who experienced economic hardship because of the pandemic. The Commission this week released several decisions by its Office of Managing Director on individual requests for waivers of the payment of annual regulatory fees – decisions that made clear the high burden that an applicant faces in receiving such a waiver. [Summary of denials, full decisions available at links in FCC’s Daily Digest]
- The FCC’s Media Bureau this week released announcements of consent decrees with nine different radio broadcasters over late uploads to their online political file disclosed in their license renewal applications. The FCC in the previous week announced ten additional consent decrees with other broadcasters. The consent decrees mandate training programs for station employees on political file obligations and two years of regular reporting requirements where these broadcasters must provide specifics on their compliance to the FCC. These consent decrees show just how seriously the FCC takes violations of a broadcaster’s obligations to immediately upload information about political advertising orders to their online public inspection files. We wrote about political consent decrees and what they require here.