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

  • The FCC’s Media Bureau announced the opening of two filing windows for Class A TV, LPTV, and TV translator stations:

With the verdict in the first criminal case against former President (and now candidate) Trump having been released, we can envision a whole raft of attack ads likely to be airing before the November elections.  The verdict is likely to also increase political divisions within the country, and potentially fuel many other nasty attack ads to be aired in political races from the top of the ballot to the local races that appear toward its end.  The use of artificial intelligence in such ads raises the prospect of even nastier attack ads, and its use raises a whole host of legal issues beyond defamation worries, though it raises those too (see our article here on defamation concerns about AI generated content, and our recent articles here and here about other potential FCC and state law liability arising from such ads).  Given the potential for a nasty election season getting even nastier, we thought that we would revisit our warning about broadcasters needing to assess the content of attack ads – particularly those from non-candidate groups. 

As we have written before, broadcasters (and local cable companies) are forbidden from editing the message of a candidate or rejecting that ad based on what is says except in extreme circumstances where the ad itself would violate a federal criminal law and possibly if it contains a false EAS alert (see, for instance, our articles herehere and here).  Section 315 of the Communications Act forbids a broadcaster or a local cable operator from censoring a candidate ad.  Because broadcasters cannot censor candidate ads, the Supreme Court has ruled that broadcasters are immune from any liability for the content of those ads.  (Note that this protection applies only to over-the-air broadcasters and local cable companies – the no censorship rule does not apply to cable networks or online distribution – see our articles here and here)  Other protections, such as Section 230, may apply to candidate ads placed on online platforms, but the circumstances in which the ad became part of the program offering need to be considered. Continue Reading Trump Verdict Raises Concerns About A Nasty Election Campaign Getting Nastier – Looking at a Broadcaster’s Potential Liability for Attack Ads

We’ve written several times (see for instance our articles here, here, and here) about all of the action in state legislatures to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in political advertising – with approximately 17 states now having adopted laws or rules, most requiring the labeling of “deep fakes” in such ads, and a few banning deep fakes entirely.  Action on the federal level seems to be picking up, with two significant actions in the last week.  This week, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a Press Release announcing that the FCC would be considering the adoption of rules requiring broadcasters and other media to include disclaimers when AI is used in political advertising. Last week, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration considered three bills addressing similar issues.  These actions, along with a long-pending Federal Election Commission proceeding to consider labeling obligations on federal election ads (see our article here), are the federal government’s attempts to address this issue – though, with the time left before the election, none  of these proposals appear likely to have a significant effect during the current election cycle.

At the FCC, according to the Chairwoman’s Press Release, a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is circulating among the Commissioners for their review.  The proposal is to require broadcasters, local cable companies, and other regulated entities with political broadcasting obligations under FCC rules, to include mandatory disclosures on political ads when AI is used.  The disclosures would be required on the air and in writing in a station’s FCC-hosted online public inspection file.  While the text of the NPRM is not yet public, the Press Release did provide some specifics as to the questions that would be asked in this proceeding.Continue Reading The FCC and Congress Advance Proposals to Regulate Artificial Intelligence in Political Advertising

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

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

In recent weeks, we saw press reports on a recommendation from the Attorney General to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana – reclassifying it by moving it off Schedule I (an illegal controlled substance with no medical uses and a high degree of potential abuse) to Schedule III, where many other drugs, including some requiring a prescription, are listed.  No official announcement about any reclassification action has been released, and even when it is, there are apparently other administrative steps that need to occur before any re-scheduling is final.  So, there are many regulatory hurdles still to come.

While a rescheduling to Schedule III may have an impact on research and marijuana’s medical uses, broadcasters need to continue to take a very cautious approach to marijuana advertising while the details of any possible change are worked out and likely even after any re-scheduling as, even as a Schedule III drug, advertising may still be restricted under federal law.Continue Reading Don’t Start Counting Marijuana Advertising Dollars Yet – Cautions Despite Possible Changes in Its Federal Classification

While May is one of those months that does not have any routine, scheduled FCC filing deadlines, there are still a number of regulatory dates and deadlines for broadcasters that are worthy of note.  As detailed below, this includes comment deadlines in several FCC rulemaking proceedings, a response deadline for broadcasters caught in the first random EEO audit of 2024, and the effective date of the FCC’s order allowing FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming (when interested parties can file for experimental authority to begin such programming).  As always, remember to keep in touch with your legal and regulatory advisors to make sure that you don’t overlook any other regulatory deadlines we may have missed here or ones that are specific to your station.

May 6 is the deadline for radio and television stations listed in the EEO audit notice released by the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau last month to upload their audit responses to their online public inspection files.  The FCC randomly audits approximately 5% of all broadcast stations each year regarding their EEO compliance.  Audited stations and their station employment units – which are commonly owned stations serving the same area – must provide to the FCC their last two years of EEO Annual Public File Reports and documentation demonstrating that the stations did everything that is required under the FCC’s EEO rules.  See our article here for more detail on EEO audits and how seriously the FCC takes broadcasters’ EEO obligations.Continue Reading May Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Audit Responses, Comment Deadlines on Emergency Broadcasting Matters, Effective Date for Zonecasting with FM Boosters, LUC Windows, and More

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

  • Perhaps the biggest regulatory news of the past week came not from the FCC, but instead from the Federal Trade

Artificial Intelligence was the talk of the NAB Convention last week.  Seemingly, not a session took place without some discussion of the impact of AI.  One area that we have written about many times is the impact of AI on political advertising.  Legislative consideration of that issue has exploded in the first quarter of 2024, as over 40 state legislatures considered bills to regulate the use of AI (or “deep fakes” or “synthetic media”) in political advertising – some purporting to ban the use entirely, with most allowing the use if it is labeled to disclose to the public that the images or voices that they are experiencing did not actually happen in the way that they are portrayed.  While over 40 states considered legislation in the first quarter, only 11 have thus far adopted laws covering AI in political ads, up from 5 in December when we reported on the legislation adopted in Michigan late last year.

The new states that have adopted legislation regulating AI in political ads in 2024 are Idaho, Indiana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin.  These join Michigan, California, Texas, Minnesota, and Washington State which had adopted such legislation before the start of this year.  Broadcasters and other media companies need to carefully review all of these laws.  Each of these laws is unique – there is no standard legislation that has been adopted across multiple states.  Some have criminal penalties, while others simply imposing civil liability.  Media companies need to be aware of the specifics of each of these bills to assess their obligations under these new laws as we enter this election season where political actors seem to be getting more and more aggressive in their attacks on candidates and other political figures. Continue Reading 11 States Now Have Laws Limiting Artificial Intelligence, Deep Fakes, and Synthetic Media in Political Advertising – Looking at the Issues

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

  • The FCC announced several dates and deadlines in proceedings of importance to broadcasters: