On December 2, 2021, the FCC held a forum on the accessibility of video programming delivered through online platforms (a recording of the event is available on the FCC website, here).  What is perhaps most notable about this forum is that it looked at whether the FCC could extend its authority over online platforms to include accessibility obligations which, thus far, have only been implicated when a broadcaster already subject to FCC accessibility obligations repurposes its programs for Internet use (see, for instance, the FCC’s significant fine imposed in a consent decree when Pluto TV, which is owned by Viacom CBS, rebroadcast certain content that had already been broadcast on television with captions).  One of the questions identified in the Public Notice announcing the Forum is whether the FCC has the authority to expand accessibility obligations to online platforms.

The seeming importance of the session could be seen from the introductory remarks by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Senator Ed Markey.  Senator Markey was one of the proponents of the Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).  In his remarks, he discussed the importance of taking the reforms that have been adopted for television programming and extending them to the Internet, given that so much video programming and viewership is now migrating to those platforms.
Continue Reading FCC Forum on Accessibility of Online Video Programming – Looking Beyond the Regulation of Broadcasters 

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’s nomination for another five-year term at the agency was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee. The

While Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the holiday season is upon us, broadcasters cannot ignore the regulatory world until the new year, as much is going on in December.  Below are some of the several important regulatory dates and deadlines in the coming month that you may need to deal with before the celebrations begin.

By December 1, all licensees of commercial and noncommercial full power TV, Class A TV, low power TV, AM radio, and FM radio stations must submit an ownership report that details the licensee’s ownership structure as of October 1, 2021.  The FCC has warned that there will be penalties for stations that do not file these reports.  Licensees with ownership structures that include parent entities must also file a report for each of those entities.  An informational session run by FCC staff is archived, here, and answers to frequently asked questions are available, here.  See our blog post covering ownership reporting, here.
Continue Reading December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Ownership Reports, License Renewal Filings, EEO Filings and Reporting, Ancillary or Supplementary Service Fees, Political Advertising Reports, and More

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.

  • In the last two weeks, many stations have discovered that links to their FCC-hosted online public inspection file no longer

With the Administration’s decision to renominate Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the FCC and to select her as the permanent chair of the Commission, and the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the vacant seat on the FCC, and assuming both are confirmed by the Senate (though the Wall Street Journal noted that there

Last week, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission approved an application for Commercial Radio Australia to collectively bargain with Google and Facebook over the carriage by these tech platforms of news content from Australian radio broadcasters (press release here, application and approval here).  This approval is an outgrowth of the adoption of the Australian News Media and Digital Platforms Bargaining Code, which authorized bargaining between traditional news media outlets and tech platforms and, if the bargaining is not successful, a mandatory arbitration process to set appropriate royalties to be paid by the tech companies for the use of the news provider’s content.  These actions could be a preview of what could happen in the United States at some point in the future if pending legislation known as The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which we wrote about here, is adopted.

There are, of course, differences between the Australian approach and what has been proposed thus far in the United States. The US bill, while providing an antitrust exemption that would permit collective bargaining with tech companies by groups of traditional media companies, does not provide for any mandatory arbitration process for setting rates if no agreement is reached as to the rates and terms of content carriage by the tech companies.  Without providing any mandatory rate-setting process, if negotiations are not successful, the most significant bargaining chip in the US would be for the local media companies to withhold consent to the use of their content by the tech platforms.  It is interesting to note that, in the application by the Australian broadcasters’ organization for a waiver from their competition (antitrust) laws to allow the collective bargaining, the broadcasters disavowed any boycott of the tech platforms, which presumably would be unnecessary with mandatory arbitration waiting if a voluntary agreement cannot be reached.  In the US, a threat to pull content off tech platforms could become more important, though perhaps more difficult to achieve because of antitrust laws (which may allow collective bargaining but may not permit collective boycotts) and other US laws and policies.
Continue Reading Could Australian Decision Giving Broadcasters the Right to Collectively Bargain with Tech Companies Be a Preview of Things to Come in the US?

With FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel now appointed permanent chair of the FCC, and with a fifth FCC Commissioner now having been nominated (Gigi Sohn), the FCC may soon be back to normal strength.  Even before that though, the FCC and other government agencies remain busy, with many important regulatory dates and deadlines in the coming weeks.  We have highlighted some of those dates below.  Pay close attention to these dates, especially the December 1 deadline to file biennial ownership reports that is applicable to all broadcasters.

Reply comments on the FCC proposal to bring back FCC Form 395-B are due by November 1 (comments were due by September 30 and can be read here).  Following the FCC’s review of comments and reply comments on the issue, enhanced equal employment opportunity data collection could again be a reality for broadcasters more than 20 years after the FCC suspended the form’s use.  Form 395-B was an annual report intended to gather information about the race and gender of broadcast employees, thrown out by the courts over fears of the unconstitutional use of the data to force broadcasters to make hiring decisions based on these factors.  We wrote more about the possible resurrection of Form 395-B, here.
Continue Reading November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Reply Comments on EEO Reporting and KidVid Accessibility; New Noncommercial FM Filing Window; Biennial Ownership Reports; License Renewals; and More

In a Federal Trade Commission notice published last week, the agency warned the advertising industry that penalties could be coming for the use of deceptive endorsements.  The FTC not only released the notice, but it also sent a letter (a version of which is available here) to hundreds of businesses (a list is here) – advertisers, advertising agencies, and a few media companies – reminding them of the FTC’s concerns about deceptive endorsements in advertising.  While the FTC makes clear that this list of recipients of the letter does not indicate that any of them did anything wrong, it does make clear that the FTC takes this issue very seriously and wants to highlight the issue for the entire advertising ecosystem.  The letter reminds businesses that violations can lead to fines of up to $43,792 per violation and other penalties.

What are the FTC concerns?  The FTC said that prohibited practices “include, but are not limited to: falsely claiming an endorsement by a third party; misrepresenting whether an endorser is an actual, current, or recent user; using an endorsement to make deceptive performance claims; failing to disclose an unexpected material connection with an endorser; and misrepresenting that the experience of endorsers represents consumers’ typical or ordinary experience.”  In other words, when an endorser says something about a product, the FTC is expecting that the endorser used the product and the statements that it makes about the product are accurate and reflect what consumers can expect from that product.  This is not the first time that the FTC has raised these issues.
Continue Reading FTC Reminds Advertisers That Deceptive Endorsements in Advertising Can Lead to Penalties

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 Federal Trade Commission issued a press release which warns advertisers to avoid misleading endorsements. The FTC also sent a

The Copyright Office, at the request of Congress, has initiated a study to examine the rights and protections of news publishers under copyright and related laws.  The Office issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking public comment on a variety of issues that could extend new protections to “press publishers” and perhaps other content creators that go beyond those accorded by traditional principles of copyright law.  The Office terms these protections “ancillary copyright protections.”  The Notice of Inquiry tees up several specific proposals for consideration, asks many specific questions, and solicits additional ideas that should be considered to protect publishers.  Comments are due November 26, 2021.  The Copyright Office will also hold a virtual public roundtable on December 9 to consider these issues.  This study could have an impact both on traditional media outlets who produce content, and on digital media that shares those comments.

The impact of digital media on traditional publishers of content – especially news content – was the trigger for this review.  The Notice begins with a recitation of the financial impact that the growth of the internet has had on newspapers and other publishers (“publication” under the Copyright Act is the distribution of a copy or recording of a work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending.  While a pure public performance does not constitute publication, digital subscription services and similar on-demand uses of content would likely fit within this definition).  In its opening paragraphs, the Notice focuses on digital “news aggregators” and their impact on publishers.  The Notice takes a broad view of the term aggregator – talking not just of headline clipping sites devoted to specific topics, but also to broader digital media sites like Facebook and Google that feature content from a variety of other sources.  While recognizing that aggregators can drive traffic to publisher’s digital content, the Copyright Office seeks comment on whether these aggregators also harm publishers by sending traffic only to specific articles and not to an index or home page for a publisher where a viewer might be inclined to view more content (and perhaps more of the publisher’s own ads).  From that opening discussion of news aggregators, the Notice looks at possible “ancillary” rights that may assist publishers in overcoming any negative impact of aggregators. These are discussed below.
Continue Reading Copyright Office Initiates Study of “Ancillary Copyright Protections” Accorded to Publishers – Reviewing News Aggregation and Digital Media’s Use of News Content from Traditional Sources