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 released its agenda for its Open Meeting scheduled for February 15.  The FCC will consider two items of

The Copyright Royalty Board has published in the Federal Register a correction to its notice announcing the commencement of the next proceeding to set rates for the royalties paid by webcasters (including broadcasters who stream their music through the internet) to SoundExchange for the public performance of sound recordings in the period 2026-2030.  The correction is to the date by which interested parties must file a petition to participate – setting that date as February 5, 2024, not February 6 as originally stated.  Thus, interested parties have a deadline one day earlier than previously announced.  We wrote more about that proceeding here.

The CRB also published in the Federal Register a notice announcing that it would be auditing five broadcast companies who are streaming their signals to assess their compliance with the statutory music licenses provided by Sections 112 and 114 of the Copyright Act for the public performance of sound recordings and ephemeral copies made in the digital transmission process by commercial webcasters. Another audit notice has gone out to a company called RFC Media, which is both a webcaster and a Business Establishment Service whose royalties are exclusively paid under Section 112 of the statute (see our article here about the CRB-set royalties for these services that provide music played in various food and retail establishments and other businesses).Continue Reading Copyright Royalty Board Issues Correction of Deadline to File Petitions to Participate in New Proceeding to Set Webcasting Royalty Rates for 2026-2030, and Issues Notices of Audits of Webcasters

Update (January 24, 2024) – The Copyright Royalty Board issued a Federal Register Notice correcting the deadline for Petitions to Participate in the WEB VI proceeding – making clear that the deadline is February 5, 2024, not February 6 as previously reported. This article has been updated with the corrected deadline. For more information, see our article here).

The Copyright Royalty Board on Friday published in the Federal Register a call for interested parties to file Petitions to Participate in the proceeding to set the royalty rates to be paid by webcasters (including broadcasters who simulcast their programming through internet-delivered channels) in the period 2026-2030.  These royalties are paid by webcasters to SoundExchange for the noninteractive streaming of sound recordings.  The CRB is required to review these rates every five years.  These proceedings are lengthy and include extensive discovery and a trial-like hearing to determine what royalty a “willing buyer and a willing seller” would agree to in a marketplace transaction.  Because of the complexity of the process, the CRB starts the proceeding early in the year before the year in which the current royalty rate expires.  So, as the current rates expire at the end of 2025, parties will need to sign up to participate in the proceeding to determine 2026-2030 rates by February 5, 2024 by filing a Petition to Participate.  The Petition must describe the party’s interest in the proceeding and be accompanied by a filing fee of $150.  The Federal Register notice provides other procedural details for filing these Petitions.

Once the Petitions to Participate are filed, the CRB will set out the rules and procedures to be followed in the proceeding.  Initially, there is a 90 day period in which the parties can try to settle the case.  While parties can settle at any time (subject to approval of the terms by the CRB), this initial 90-day period occurs before any litigation begins and offers parties the opportunity to avoid much of the cost of litigation.  Once that period ends without a settlement, the litigation begins.  Initial stages of the litigation (including the identification of witnesses, submission of the rate proposals and the evidence supporting those proposals, and the initial discovery) will likely all take place in 2024, with the hearing itself conducted in 2025, followed by final briefs summarizing the evidence and arguing about the conclusions to be drawn from that evidence. There are usually oral arguments held after the briefs are submitted.  At that point, the three Copyright Royalty Judges will consider the evidence and the arguments and release their decisions late in 2025, so that parties know the new rates as of January 1, 2026. While there may be appeals of the decision that are argued well beyond the effective date of the new rates, the rates become effective while those appeals are pending.Continue Reading Copyright Royalty Board Starts WEB VI Proceeding to Set Webcasting Royalties Paid to SoundExchange for 2026-2030: Petitions to Participate Due February 5

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

Earlier this week, we covered the broadcast issues that the FCC may be facing in 2024.  But the FCC is just one of the many branches of government that regulates the activities of broadcasters.  There are numerous federal agencies, the Courts, Congress, and even state legislatures that all are active in adopting rules, making policies, or issuing decisions that can affect the business of broadcasting and the broader media industry.  What are some of the issues we can expect to see addressed in 2024 by these authorities?

For radio, there are music rights issues galore that will be considered.  Early in the year, the Copyright Royalty Board will be initiating the proceeding to set streaming royalties for webcasters (including broadcasters who stream their programming on the Internet) for 2026-2030.  These proceedings, which occur every five years, are lengthy and include extensive discovery and a trial-like hearing to determine what royalty a “willing buyer and a willing seller” would arrive at for the noninteractive use of sound recordings transmitted through internet-based platforms.  Because of the complexity of the process, the CRB starts the proceeding early in the year before the year in which the current royalty rate expires.  So, as the current rates expire at the end of 2025, parties will need to sign up to participate in the proceeding to determine 2026-2030 rates early this year, even though the proceeding is unlikely to be resolved until late 2025 (unless there is an earlier settlement)(the CRB Notice asking for petitions to participate in the proceeding is expected to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow).  Initial stages of the litigation (including the identification of witnesses, the rate proposals, the evidence supporting those proposals, and the initial discovery) will likely take place this year. Continue Reading Gazing into the Crystal Ball at Legal and Policy Issues for Broadcasters in 2024 – Part II: What to Expect from the Courts and Agencies Other than the FCC

The new year brings a series of noteworthy regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in January.  As always, broadcasters should consult with their own attorneys and advisors to make sure that they are aware of and ready to act on any other deadlines that are not listed below.

Congress still has not passed budget bills for the fiscal year that started on October 1, and some of the “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government at last year’s levels run out on January 19, with the FCC’s budget set to expire on February 2.  Thus, at least a partial government shutdown may well occur if Congress fails to act this month.  As we previously discussed here and here, if a government shutdown does occur, some government agencies may have to cease all but critical functions if they do not have any residual funds to continue operations.  If no funding is approved, the FCC will announce how any shutdown will affect it, including whether it has any residual funds to keep operating beyond any general funding deadline.  Watch Congressional actions and any FCC announcements to see how any deadlines that apply to your station will be affected by the funding deadline.

With those concerns in mind, let’s look at some of the specific dates and deadlines for broadcasters in January.  Beginning January 1, television stations affiliated with the Top 4 Networks and operating in Nielsen Designated Market Areas (DMAs) 91 through 100 will be added to the list of markets that are subject to the FCC’s audio description rules.  The DMAs where the rules become effective on January 1 are:  El Paso (Las Cruces), Paducah-Cape Girardeau-Harrisburg, Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City & Dubuque, Burlington-Plattsburgh, Baton Rouge, Jackson, MS, Fort-Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Boise, South Bend-Elkhart, and Myrtle Beach-Florence – in addition to Chattanooga and Charleston, SC, which were previously in DMAs 92 and 91, respectively, but are now in DMAs 84 and 88.  We reported here on the FCC’s recent reminder that these new markets will be subject to the audio description requirements as of January 1.  TV stations associated with the Top 4 networks in these markets are required to provide audio description for 50 hours of programming per calendar quarter, either during prime time or in children’s programming, and 37.5 additional hours of audio description per calendar quarter between 6 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. local time, on each programming stream that carries one of the top four commercial television broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC). Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Expansion of Audio Description Requirements, Music Royalty Cost of Living Increases, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, Childrens Television Programming Reporting, Political Windows, and More

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

In Federal Register notices published this week, the Copyright Royalty Board announced cost-of-living increases for two sets of music royalties.  Webcasters, including broadcasters streaming their signals on the web or through mobile apps, will be paying more to SoundExchange for the public performance of sound recordings.  In addition, noncommercial broadcasters affiliated with educational institutions, but not affiliated with NPR or CPB, will be paying more to SESAC and GMR for their over-the-air broadcasts.  These changes go into effect on January 1, 2024.  More information about each of these royalties is set out below. 

The webcasting royalties that are increasing are those that are paid to SoundExchange by those webcasters making “noninteractive digital transmissions” of sound recordings (see our article here on the difference between interactive and noninteractive transmissions).  This includes broadcasters who simulcast their over-the-air programming on the internet or through mobile apps (or through other digital means including smart speakers like Alexa, see our article here).  The notice just published in the Federal Register sets out the computations that the Board used to determine the amount of the cost-of-living increase.  Those computations led to a royalty rate for 2024 of $.0025 per performance for services that do not charge a subscription fee. A performance is one song played to one listener – so for one song paid to four listeners one time each, a webcaster pays a penny. For subscription services, the rate will be $.0031 per performance.  This represents an increase from the 2023 rates of $.0024 for nonsubscription performances and $.0030 per performance for subscription stream. Continue Reading Cost of Living Increases Announced for Music Royalties Paid by Webcasters to SoundExchange and by Noncommercial Broadcasters to SESAC and GMR

For the last few years at this time of the year, we’ve departed from our usual coverage of legal and policy issues to talk about something else – broadcasters giving back.  With Giving Tuesday upon us, we wanted to urge our readers to consider ways to give back to our industry.  I guess it is now a tradition, so we’ll do it again this year and suggest some of the many ways we can express our thanks to the industry in which we work.  Broadcasters have long been known for their service to their communities, service benefitting individuals and groups across the country.  While broadcasters are always giving back to their communities and should be celebrated for that, those of us who make our living in some aspect of the industry should recognize that there are plenty of ways for us to give back as well – both to those associated with the industry who have fallen on hard times, and to those who need assistance in obtaining education and training to enter the media industry we so appreciate.  We should all be thankful for jobs, friends, and good fortune. But we should also ourselves give back where possible.  In the broadcast industry itself, there are many groups doing good work.

One that bears mention is the Broadcasters Foundation of America, which provides relief to broadcasters and former broadcasters who have, for one reason or another, fallen on hard times – whether that be for health reasons or because of some other disaster that has affected their lives. The Foundation deserves your consideration. More about the Foundation and its service, and ways to contribute, can be found at their website, here.Continue Reading Giving Back to the Broadcast Industry on Giving Tuesday

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 NAB and REC Networks, an LPFM advocacy organization, jointly requested an extension of the December 12, 2023 deadline for