As I was preparing for a session updating and refreshing broadcasters about their obligations under the FCC’s EEO rules at the Iowa Broadcasters Association annual convention in Des Moines on June 30, I learned of what seemed to be a startling development – the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, one of the most effective advocates in Washington for minority hiring and ownership, had urged the FCC to suspend its enforcement of the EEO rules. What was this all about? I went on with my presentation (the PowerPoint slides for which are available here, and the slides for the presentation that I did at another session providing an update on Washington issues for radio broadcasters are available here), quickly adding a summary of the MMTC request. While some broadcasters might have hoped that the request recognized that the EEO rules were no longer necessary as broadcasters were, on their own, making great strides in diversifying their workforce, in fact what the MMTC was seeking was tighter EEO enforcement, contending that the current rules are so ineffective as to not be worth the time spent on their implementation and enforcement.

While MMTC acknowledged that there have been a number of recent cases fining stations for noncompliance with the EEO rules, it contends that often the stations that are hit by such fines have very diverse workforces, and thus should not have to worry about EEO outreach. We have written about some of these fines.  These cases demonstrate that the current rules are not targeted at minority and gender-based affirmative action, as FCC rules requiring any evaluation of minority and gender-based hiring were twice declared by the US Court of Appeals to be instances of unconstitutional reverse discrimination. Instead, the current rules are focused instead on bringing new people into the broadcast employment workforce – people recruited from a wide variety of community groups, and not exclusively by word of mouth or through other hiring avenues that simply take people from traditional broadcast hiring sources. But, as MMTC points out, these rules are not based on necessarily seeking to include members of minority groups or women in station workforces.  Thus, as their focus is simply on wide dissemination of information about job openings, even stations that have high percentages of minorities and women on their staffs can still run afoul of the rules by not publicizing job openings.


Continue Reading David Oxenford Reviews EEO Rules with the Iowa Broadcasters, While MMTC Asks the FCC to Suspend EEO Enforcement

Davis Wright Tremaine attorneys David Oxenford and Rob Driscoll conducted a seminar –  Using Music in Digital Media: Business and Legal Issues – on June 16, 2010 in New York City.  The seminar was presented to attorneys from committees of the New York State and New York City bar associations.  In the seminar, Dave and

On May 27, 2010, David Oxenford spoke to the Vermont Association of Broadcasters annual meeting in Montpelier, updating the broadcasters on Washington events of importance, and discussing the FCC’s political broadcasting rules.  A copy of Dave’s PowerPoint on issues of importance to broadcasters will be posted here soon.  Broadcasters may want to refer to Davis Wright Tremaine’s Political Broadcasting Guide for a discussion of the political broadcasting issues that may arise in this election season.  One of the political broadcasting issues that was discussed in detail was the issue of what a station should do when faced with a political ad that comes from a third party, attacking a political candidate, and the candidate tells the station that the ad is untrue and, if it continues to run on the air, it may subject the station to liability.

This issue may be coming up more in the coming months.  The recent Citizens United case signals the potential for more campaign spending by corporations and labor unions. This money would be spent directly by these organizations, not contributed to the candidates, as the case did not loosen the limits on corporate contributions directly to candidate’s campaign committees. Thus, as the ads will not come from candidates, they will not be subject to the “no censorship” rule that applies only to candidate ads. Because the no censorship rules prevent a broadcast station from rejecting a candidate’s ad based on its content, stations are protected from any liability for the content of those candidate ads. In contrast, broadcasters are free to reject ads from corporations, labor unions, or other non-candidate groups. Because they can choose whether or not to accept such ads, they can technically be held liable for the contents of those ads, should the ad be defamatory or otherwise contain legally actionable material. This should not be new to broadcasters as, even before Citizens United, stations were often faced with complaints from candidates about ads from third party interest groups (like the political parties’ campaign committees, or so-called 527 groups like MoveOn.org) that were permitted to advertise even before the recent decision. Most broadcasters want to be able to accept these advocacy ads from non-candidate groups, but they also want to avoid potential liability. What is a station to do when it receives such an ad, or when an ad is already running and a candidate complains about its contents?


Continue Reading David Oxenford Speaks to Vermont Broadcasters – Addresses What to Do When a Station Receives a Complaint about the Truth of a Political Ad

David Oxenford, Bob Corn-Revere, David Silverman, Brendan Holland, and others from Davis Wright Tremaine’s media and communications practice will be in Las Vegas, Nevada from April 10-15 for the 2010 NAB Show.  The NAB convention is an annual event and a focal point for engineering, legal, and business issues for the broadcasting and greater media worlds.  Bob Corn-Revere will be speaking at the American Bar Association Conference, Representing Your Local Broadcaster, on April 11, on a panel on new technology and the dangers it poses for journalists reporting from disaster areas or other scenes where immediate verification of information is not possible – the panel is called:  "Clear and Present Danger, Guiding Journalists Through the Catastrophic Perils."  David Oxenford, on the morning of April 12, will be speaking at the NAB Show on a panel called, "Copyright Licensing: Seeking a Bridge Over Troubled Waters", a panel dealing with the proposed broadcast performance royalty, streaming fees, the current ASCAP and BMI negotiations, and other copyright issues that arise in day-to-day operation of a broadcast station.  Dave will also be moderating a panel at the Radio and Internet Newsletter’s RAIN Internet Radio Summit, to be held in conjunction with the NAB Show, at the Renaissance Hotel on April 12.  Be sure to join us at these and other events in Las Vegas.

To help you attend the Show, we have been offered some discounts and free admissions for our readers.  The RAIN Summit, Internet Radio’s main event, has offered readers of the Broadcast Law Blog a 30% discount on admission to the conference.  That conference includes a full day of discussion of Internet radio topics, and will feature many of the industry’s biggest names.  From past experience, this always a great event with much great information, important for anyone with any interest in Internet radio and digital media.  The Summit features great networking opportunities, with a box lunch and post-conference reception.  An Exhibit Hall pass to the NAB Show is also included for RAIN attendees

For those not interested in Internet radio, we can still get you into the NAB Show’s Exhibit Hall for free!  The NAB has offered our readers free access to the Exhibit Hall at the show. This free Exhibits-Only pass includes:

  • Access to the Exhibit Hall at the Show
  • Access to the Opening Keynote and State of the Industry Address
  • Access to Info Sessions on the Convention floor
  • Content Theater and Destination Broadband Theater

To find out how to register for these discounted offers, click on the Continue Reading link below.


Continue Reading DWT Going to Las Vegas for the 2010 NAB Show – Discounts for RAIN Internet Radio Summit and Free Passes to NAB Exhibits and Keynote Available for Our Readers

Using music on your website, employees on Facebook or twitter, doing podcasts?  Everyone needs a guide to the legal issues that you may face as broadcasters move their content to new platforms.  At the Convention of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, held in Oklahoma City on March 18-19, David Oxenford

On March 16, David Oxenford spoke at a Continuing Legal Education Seminar on the FCC’s Political Broadcasting rules. The panel, sponsored by the Federal Communications Bar Association, included another attorney in private practice, an attorney from the NAB, Bobby Baker (the head of the FCC’s Political Broadcasting office), and a media time buyer for political candidates. The panel not only discussed the basic rules governing political advertising on broadcast stations, but also dealt with topics including the impact of the Citizen’s United case on FCC rules (see our post here on that topic), issues of what to do if a political spot contains objectionable content, and how stations should deal with complaints from candidates about the content of political ads. Many of these topics and others are discussed in the Davis Wright Tremaine Political Broadcasting Guide, available here.  The discussion also provided a useful reminder on certain aspects of the law regarding how much broadcast stations can charge political candidates for the purchase of advertising time on broadcast stations.

At the session, the political time buyer complained that broadcast stations were trying to charge political candidates premium prices for purchases of advertising time outside the “political window.” During the window, 45 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election, stations are required to charge candidates the “lowest unit rate” charged for any spot of the same class of time run on the broadcast station. Outside the window, broadcasters do not have to charge lowest unit rates but, as the buyer reminded the audience, they do still need to charge “comparable rates” to what the station charges advertisers for the same type of purchase. So, while candidates do not get volume discounts without buying in volume (as they do during the window), if they do buy in the required volume, they should get the same discount that other advertisers get. Stations should not “mark up” the rates charged to political candidates outside of the window.


Continue Reading Reminders About Rates to Be Charged to Candidates At Communications Law Seminar

In the last two weeks, David Oxenford has, at two different conferences, moderated panels on digital music rights and licenses.  At the Digital Music Forum East, in New York City on February 25, 2010, his panel focused on rights and licenses generally, featuring panelists from SoundExchange, BMI, the Harry Fox Agency, Rightsflow and MediaNet

David Silverman participated on a panel discussing the legal aspects of social media at the Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference in Lansing, Michigan on March 3, 2010. His PowerPoint presentation focused on the risks and benefits of using Twitter, Facebook and other social media in the employment context, including use by broadcasters. There are

On February, 18, 2010, David Oxenford conducted a seminar for the Utah Broadcasters Association on legal issues that affect radio and television broadcasters.  First, David summarized the various broadcasting legal and policy issues pending before the FCC and Congress.  David’s PowerPoint presentation is available here.  Broadcasters interested in Washington issues that may affect them this year may