Most years, at some point in January, we look into our crystal ball and try to see some of the legal and regulatory issues likely to face broadcasters. We already provided a calendar of the routine regulatory filings that are due this year (see our Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar). But not on that calendar are the policy issues that will affect the regulatory landscape in the coming year, and into the future. This year, the biggest issue will no doubt be the November election. Obviously, broadcasters must deal with the many day-to-day issues that arise in an election year including the rates to be charged political candidates, the access to airtime afforded to those candidates, and the challenges associated with the content of issue advertising that non-candidate groups seek to transmit to the public. The election in November will also result in a President being inaugurated in just less than a year – which could signal a continuation of the current policies at the FCC or potentially send the Commission in a far different direction. With the time that the election campaigns will demand from Congress, and its current attention to the impeachment, Congress is unlikely to have time to tackle much broadcast legislation this year.
The broadcast performance royalty is one of those issues likely on hold this year. While it was recently re-introduced in Congress (see our article here), it is a struggle for any copyright legislation to get through Congress and, in a year like the upcoming one, moving a bill like the controversial performance royalty likely will likely not be high on the priorities of Congressional leaders. This issue will not go away – it will be back in future Congresses – so broadcasters still need to consider a long-term strategy to deal with the issue (see, for instance, our article here on one such strategy that also helps resolve some of the music royalty issues we mention later in this article).