Expecting quiet weeks, we took the holidays off from providing our weekly summary of regulatory actions of interest to broadcasters. But, during that period, there actually were many regulatory developments. Here are some of those developments, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your
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 a Public Notice released late on Friday, the FCC’s Media Bureau extended the deadline for the upload of Quarterly
Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last two weeks, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The FCC released the results of the August 11 Nationwide EAS Test, finding that, compared to the 2019 test
It’s a new year, and a good time to reflect on where all the Washington issues for TV broadcasters stand at the moment, especially given the rapid pace of change since the new administration took over just about a year ago. While we try on this Blog to write about many of the DC issues…
Yesterday, the President reportedly used the word “shithole” to describe certain countries whose immigrants were seemingly less favored than others. This predictably caused outrage in many quarters – and left the electronic media, especially broadcast TV in a quandary. Do they broadcast the purportedly used term, or do they use some euphemism so that “shit,”…
When press reports first started to emerge that the FCC was investigating for possible indecency violations a Stephen Colbert bit from his Late Show television program suggesting that the President had engaged in certain sex acts with the Russian President, we wrote that the controversy was much ado about nothing (see our article here).…
Several articles published at the end of last week suggested that the FCC, based on a statement by FCC Chairman Pai on a radio show, would be investigating comments made by Stephen Colbert on a program last week. The comments, suggesting a sexual act between President Trump and Vladimir Putin, has raised much controversy and apparently resulted in the filing of a number of complaints at the FCC. However, just because the statement was controversial does not mean that the FCC has any jurisdiction to do anything about it consistent with its precedent and constitutional protections which governs speech generally. The Chairman’s statement was no doubt nothing more than an acknowledgement that the FCC would deal with complaints that were filed, rather than any implication that there was likely to be any penalty for the statements of the TV host. Why?
The Colbert Show starts at 11:30 PM on the east and west coasts. Even in the rest of the country where it runs earlier, it begins at 10:30. Under the FCC’s policy on indecency, programs airing after 10 PM and before 6 AM are considered to be in the “safe harbor” where children are unlikely to be in the audience, so indecent programming – programming that “depicts or describes sexual or excretory organs or activities in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium” – is not prohibited. In other words, during these overnight hours, stations can run material that is sexually oriented and which would normally not be acceptable on television – allowing more adult oriented content to run even on broadcast stations. As the Colbert program ran during this safe harbor, the FCC’s indecency rules would not apply. But what about obscenity?
Continue Reading FCC to Investigate Steven Colbert? – Much Ado About Nothing
A new President and a new Chair of the FCC have already demonstrated that change is in the air in Washington. Already we’ve seen Chairman Pai lead the FCC to abolish the requirement that broadcasters maintain letters from the public about station operations in their public file (which will take effect once the Paperwork Reduction Act analysis is finalized), revoke the Media Bureau guidance that had limited Shared Services Agreements in connection with the sales of television stations, and rescind for further consideration FCC decisions about the reporting of those with attributable interests in noncommercial broadcast stations and the admonitions given to TV stations for violations of the obligation for reporting the issues discussed in, and sponsors of, political ads (see our article here). Also on the table for consideration next week are orders that have already been released for public review on expanding the use of FM translators for AM stations and proposing rules for the roll-out of the new ATSC 3.0 standard for television. Plus, the television incentive auction moves toward its conclusion in the repacking of the television spectrum to clear space for new wireless users. Plenty of action in just over 3 weeks.
But there are many other broadcast issues that are unresolved to one degree or another – and potentially new issues ready to be discussed by the FCC this year. We usually dust off the crystal ball and make predictions about the legal issues that will impact the business of broadcasters earlier in the year, but we have waited this year to get a taste for the changes in store from the new administration. So we’ll try to look at the issues that are on the table in Washington that could affect broadcasters, and make some general assessments on the likelihood that they will be addressed this year. While we try to look ahead to identify the issues that are on the agenda of the FCC, there are always surprises as the regulators come up with issues that we did not anticipate. With this being the first year of a new administration that promises a different approach to regulation generally, what lies ahead is particularly hard to predict.
Continue Reading What’s Up for Broadcasters in Washington Under the New Administration – A Look Ahead at TV and Radio FCC Issues for the Rest of 2017
With the Super Bowl soon to kick off in Houston, the New York Times just ran a story (here) recalling that during the last Super Bowl held in Houston, the notorious “wardrobe malfunction” occurred. The article highlighted the NFL’s concerns since then in picking halftime performers. To readers of this blog, that incident…
A Washington Post article published this weekend was titled “Is there anything you can’t say on TV anymore? It’s complicated.” And, it really is. The Post article presents a very good overview on the status of the FCC’s indecency rules. What will happen with those rules has been a matter of conjecture for several years, ever since the Supreme Court threw out the fines that the FCC had imposed for fleeting expletives that had slipped out in the Golden Globes and other awards programs, a case that also had the effect of negating that other fine for a “slip,” the notorious Janet Jackson clothing malfunction during her Super Bowl performance. Other than a well-publicized $325,000 fine on a Roanoke TV station for a short but very explicit image that slipped into the corner of a news report on a porn star turned first responder (see our article here on the Roanoke case), the FCC has been largely quiet on the indecency front since it launched a post-Supreme court proceeding to determine how they should amend their rules in light of the Court’s decision (see our summary here).
As we wrote when comments were filed in that proceeding, it drew much attention, with many commenters fearing that the FCC would back away from all indecency regulation on broadcast TV. In an election year like this one, don’t expect in the near future to see any definitive answers as to what is indecent and what is not. Neither political party wants to be tagged with being pro-smut by one side of the political spectrum, or anti-First Amendment expression by the other. But the Post article raises other very interesting questions about the difference in legal treatment between cable and broadcast programming, especially when so many viewers hooked up to some cable or satellite service don’t really understand the difference between cable network programming and that from broadcast sources.
Continue Reading Looking at the FCC’s Indecency Rules – Does Anyone Know What’s Prohibited and What’s Permitted?