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.
- The Federal Trade Commission issued a press release which warns advertisers to avoid misleading endorsements. The FTC also sent a warning letter to hundreds of advertisers, advertising agencies, and media companies setting out its concerns, and the potential penalties, for misleading endorsements in advertising, including those by endorsers who had not actually used a product or ads that create unrealistic expectations for the products being advertised. (Press Release and Warning Letter). Watch our Broadcast Law Blog on Monday for more on this warning and its impact on broadcasters.
- A recent court case is a good reminder that political attack ads can subject broadcast stations to defamation claims. While broadcast stations are generally immune from liability for the content of candidate advertising, they can have liability if they air an attack ad from a non-candidate group (e.g., a PAC or political party), knowing that the content is false or with notice that the ad might be false. See our blog post on this issue, here.
- In last week’s update, we noted that the Copyright Office opened a study to examine the rights and protections of news publishers under copyright and related laws. We took a longer look at the study this week on the Broadcast Law Blog, including the study’s potential impact on news content produced by broadcasters or news content produced by other outlets and reproduced by broadcasters. Comments on the notice of inquiry are due November 26, 2021 (Notice of Inquiry).
- In a reminder that non-broadcast conduct of owners of a company can affect the company’s qualifications to hold a broadcast license, the FCC this week issued an order announcing that they will hold a hearing to determine whether a Pennsylvania FM station licensee who was convicted of a felony and multiple misdemeanors is qualified to continue holding an FM station license. FCC licensees are required to meet certain character qualifications set out in its Character Qualification Policy Statement. The FCC could determine that the criminal conduct requires a revocation of the station’s license. (Hearing Designation Order) See our blog post, here, for a longer discussion of the FCC’s character policy and how it has been used in the past.
- The FCC entered into a number of consent decrees with broadcasters whose license renewal applications revealed untimely uploads to their online political files (see examples of the FCC orders here and here) or other untimely actions, including other late non-political uploads to online public files (see the orders here and here). For more details on the consent decrees for untimely uploads to the political file, see our articles here and here. For more on FCC actions for other violations of the public file rules, see our articles here and here.