The last two weeks have been filled with stories about Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and other artists pulling their music from Spotify in protest of its carriage of the Joe Rogan podcast.  While the political statements made by these actions generate the news, there are rights and royalty issues behind the story that are worth exploring.  While Washington Post articles here and here touch on some of these issues, looking at them in more depth helps to explain the importance that Spotify places on podcasts and why it would be reluctant to pull a podcast that has so many listeners (reportedly over 10 million per episode), even if the podcast has content that may be objectionable.  The issues raised by this controversy are also tied into two other stories that made the news for broadcasters this last week – Congressional hearings on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act and on a potential sound recording performance royalty on over-the-air radio – topics we will cover in subsequent articles.

Let’s first look at the question of why Spotify, which started as a music service, has pushed so hard into podcasting.  We will follow up with a discussion of the issues on the artist side of the equation in a second article.  Spotify reportedly paid more than a hundred million dollars for the rights to the Rogan podcast.  It has also invested heavily in other podcast companies – including buying podcast technology companies including Anchor and Megaphone, and podcast content aggregators including Gimlet and the Ringer.  Deals with celebrities for their podcasts include those with former President Obama for his podcast with Bruce Springsteen, as well as an announced content creation deal with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Why would a music service spend so heavily to get into spoken word programming?
Continue Reading Spotify, Joe Rogan and Neil Young – Looking at the Rights and Royalty Issues Behind the Story (Part 1 – Why Spotify Has Been Promoting More Podcasts)

In a press release issued today, the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and performing rights organization Global Music Rights (GMR) announced that enough commercial radio stations signed the GMR licensing agreement to allow the settlement of the RMLC/GMR litigation to become effective.  As we wrote when the settlement was announced early last month,

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

  • FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced several leadership changes at the FCC. The changes include a new head of the Media

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

  • The FCC adopted two items of interest to broadcasters that were on the agenda for its January 27 Open Meeting.

There was record viewership for the last-second victories in each of the 2022 NFC and AFC Divisional Round games.  Thus, the interest in this year’s Super Bowl game may be unprecedented and advertisers may want to take advantage.  For the last six years, I have posted guidelines about engaging in or accepting advertising or promotions that directly or indirectly reference the Super Bowl without a license from the NFL.  Here is an updated version of my prior posts, which may be particularly useful to potential advertisers and broadcasters who may be asked to carry their ads.

The Super Bowl means big bucks.  It is estimated that each of the three television networks that broadcasts the Super Bowl paid the NFL over $1 billion per year for the right to broadcast NFL games through this season, including the right to broadcast the big game on a rotating basis once every three years.  In addition, the NFL has entered into a new contract that goes through 2033, for a reported total of $100 billion, under which CBS, ESPN/ABC and Fox, will have television rights for three Super Bowls and NBC will have the rights to broadcast two Super Bowls.

The investment seems to pay off for the networks.  Reportedly, it cost $6 M for a 30-second spot during last year’s Super Bowl broadcast, up from $5.6 M the prior year, and national advertising revenue totaled $545 M (up from $448.7 M the prior year) and these figures do not include income from ads during any pre-game or post-game programming.  (In addition to the sums paid to have their commercials aired, some advertisers spend millions of dollars to produce an ad.)  In addition, the NFL receives hundreds of millions of dollars from licensing the use of the SUPER BOWL trademark and logo.
Continue Reading The Clock is Ticking Towards the Super Bowl:  2022 Update on Super Bowl Advertising and Promotions

Before we jump into February dates, let’s take a look at some important dates still to come in January.  Noncommercial radio applicants whose applications were found to be mutually exclusive (MX) with one or more other applications filed in the reserved band window have through January 28 to submit technical amendments or work with others in their MX group to enter into settlement agreements or otherwise resolve conflicts.  See the MX groups, here, and the Public Notice setting out the details of the settlement window and filing procedures, here.

By January 31, television stations must fulfill their now-annual obligation to prepare and file a  Children’s Television Programming Report (Form 2100, Schedule H).  Also due to be uploaded to the online public file is a certification of compliance with commercial limits in children’s programming.  Schedule H would normally be due to be filed by January 30 but, as that date is a Sunday this year, the filing deadline is the next business day—January 31.  Records documenting compliance with the limits on the number of commercial minutes that stations can allow in children’s programming are also due to be uploaded to each full-power and Class A TV station’s public file by January 31—another January 30 deadline pushed to the next business day.  As a reminder, the quarterly filings were replaced with annual filings as part of the 2019 KidVid rule changes (we summarized those changes, here).
Continue Reading February Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Children’s TV Reporting, License Renewals, EEO Filings, FCC Proceedings, and More

My law firm partner, Jonathan Cohen, has been closely monitoring the developments in the regulation of social media and other big tech platforms by the current administration.  He offers these thoughts on likely areas of legislative and regulatory action in this area in the coming year. 

Many nights, the last thing I do before falling asleep is put down my phone, and the first thing I do upon waking is pick it up.  I know I’m not alone in this.  And how many times have we made an online purchase from bed?  Internet-enabled digital technologies seem to have transformed life for most Americans, changing how we conduct business, connect with each other, and receive information and entertainment.  The advent of these technologies in recent years is what former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in his 2019 book From Gutenberg to Google, calls the “third major network revolution,” after the invention of movable-type printing and the innovations in travel and communications brought about by railroads and the telegraph.  This new revolution is rapidly changing our information ecosystem.

Beyond the commercial opportunities and challenges presented for tech, media, and telecom companies, as well as content creators, the societal impact of this third major network revolution is fascinating and wide-ranging, but also potentially troubling.  Illustrating the power that tech platforms exert over us, Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times recently reported on a conversation she’d had with a 10-year-old boy who was disappointed that no photos were available when he Googled himself.  The boy felt that he wasn’t a real person until his photo came up in a Google search.  Leaving aside the numerous sociological implications of the tech revolution, the tech sector is under scrutiny as never before.  Its business model of tracking users’ online actions and using the data to sell targeted advertising and feed algorithmic amplification has been described by Harvard professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff as “surveillance capitalism.”  Others call it the “attention economy.”
Continue Reading Hot Topic for 2022: Tech Regulation

2022 has begun – and we are all wondering what will lie ahead in the New Year.  Each year, at about this time, we put together a look at highlights of the regulatory dates ahead for broadcasters.  This year is no different – and we offer for your review our Broadcaster’s Regulatory Calendar for 2022

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

  • The FCC this week announced that it will vote on two items of interest to broadcasters at its next Open

A conditional settlement of the long-running litigation between Global Music Rights (GMR), a relatively new performing rights organization formed to license the public performance rights to certain musical works, and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) was announced this week.  The terms of the agreement are confidential, so we can’t comment on the specifics of the deal.  But each commercial radio station represented by RMLC should have received a proposed license agreement from GMR.  The settlement will only be effective if an undisclosed number of radio broadcasters agree to the terms of the agreement by January 31, 2022.  For stations that do not agree by that date, or if not enough stations opt into the agreement causing the settlement to fail, the press release about the agreement says that GMR has made no commitment to extend the current interim license (about which we wrote here) beyond its current expiration date of March 31, 2022.  Thus, stations would need to otherwise negotiate an agreement with GMR, pull GMR music from their stations, or risk a lawsuit for playing the music without permission.  If your commercial radio station did not receive a communication from GMR in the last few days, and if you play any GMR music and you are not covered by an independently negotiated agreement, you should discuss with counsel whether you should reach out to GMR to see why you were not offered a license.  Similarly, if not all your stations were included in the offer you received, discuss with counsel whether to communicate with GMR.

While we cannot comment on the specifics of the deal because it remains confidential, there are some observations that can be made based on the public statement released by RMLC and GMR.  One of the first questions is why the settlement is conditioned on enough stations agreeing to it by January 31.  First, it is important to note that the agreement by RMLC to any royalty with any music rights organization does not bind all commercial broadcasters, or even RMLC’s members, to accept the deals that it has negotiated.  See, for instance, the agreements in the last few years with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, all of which required broadcasters who wanted to be covered by the negotiated agreement to opt in by a date certain.  While a wide cross-section of broadcast companies is represented on the Board of RMLC which approved this agreement, the Board members do not bind their companies or the rest of the radio industry to accept the terms that were negotiated.
Continue Reading GMR and RMLC Announce Confidential Settlement on Music Royalties for Commercial Radio Stations – Broadcasters Must Decide Whether to Opt In by January 31