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.

  • Global Music Rights (GMR) and the Radio Music Licensing Committee (RMLC) announced that enough broadcasters had agreed to GMR licensing

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

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

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

As 2021 wound down, there were significant developments on SoundExchange royalties for webcasters – including broadcasters who simulcast their on-air programming through IP channels (such as on their websites and on mobile apps).  While we covered many of these matters in our weekly Sunday updates on regulatory matters of importance to broadcasters, we thought that it would be worth summarizing all of the action in one place.  Most, but not all, of these developments follow from last year’s  Copyright Royalty Board decision  raising webcasting rates for 2021-2025 (see our article here summarizing that decision).

The CRB’s decision was published in the Federal Register in October 2021.  As of that date, all webcasters, if they had not already been doing so, should be paying the higher royalties ($.0021 per song per listener in 2021 for nonsubscription streams).    SoundExchange has appealed the CRB’s decision (presumably to argue the rates should have been set even higher), as have the NAB and the National Religious Broadcasters Noncommercial Music License Committee.  These appeals are pending and likely will be briefed and argued sometime in 2022.  If you have not trued up your payments (the increase in royalties was retroactive to January 1, 2021), consult your legal advisor as to the effect that these appeals may have on your responsibility for that true-up.
Continue Reading A Look at Developments in SoundExchange Webcasting Royalties (Including for Broadcast Simulcasts) From the End of 2021

As the holiday season comes to an end and 2022 comes into focus, broadcasters have several dates and deadlines to keep up with in January and early February.  We have noted below some of the important dates you should be tracking.  However, as always, stay in touch with your station’s lawyers and other regulatory advisors for the dates applicable to your operations.  We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful New Year – and remembering to track important regulatory dates will help you  achieve those ends.

Let’s start with some of the annual dates that always fall in January.  By January 10, full-power radio, TV, and Class A licensees should have their quarterly issues/programs lists uploaded to their online public file.  The lists are meant to identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station broadcast in October, November, and December that addressed those issues.  Prepare the lists carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our post here for more on this obligation.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Issues/Programs Lists; Digital LPTV Deadline; Audio Description Expansion; Children’s Programming, Webcasting Royalties; NCE FM Settlement Window; and More