Programming Regulations

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 four television network affiliates groups have asked the FCC to clarify its new rules for sponsorship identification of programming

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’s Video Division of its Media Bureau has begun to release decisions on TV license renewal applications filed in

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.

  • This week all but ends analog television operations in the US. The FCC’s Media Bureau reminded all low power television

For well over 50 years, the Supreme Court’s New York Times v. Sullivan decision has governed the principles applied by the courts when assessing any claim of defamation.  That standard requires that, to find a statement about a public figure to be defamatory, not only does the statement need to be false, but it also needs to have been conveyed with “actual malice.” The Sullivan decision generally defines actual malice as writing or publishing an incorrect harmful statement knowing that the statement was false, or with reckless disregard as to whether the statement was true or not.  See our articles here and here, on this standard.  Because of this standard, the vast majority of defamation cases against public figures cannot be sustained, as it can rarely be proven that a defendant knew or should have known that a statement about a public figure was untrue.

In the recent past, there have been calls for this standard to be revisited.  Former President Trump was a big critic of the policy, thinking that he should have a greater ability to successfully sue media outlets over his claims of “fake news.”  Earlier this year, a prominent US Court of Appeals judge suggested that the doctrine should be abolished, using his dissenting opinion (at the end of this decision) to rail against big media companies and what he perceived to be their liberal bias.  This past week, two Supreme Court justices, Thomas and Gorsuch, issued dissenting opinions arguing that the Sullivan standard should change, in a case in which the Court decided not to review a lower court’s finding that a defamation case was precluded by the application of the Sullivan standards.  Justice Thomas has made this argument before (prior case here, new dissent here), but the dissenting opinion of Justice Gorsuch was the first time that he officially went on record calling for a modification of the standard.
Continue Reading Two Supreme Court Justices Try to Ignite Debate on Defamation Standards – What A Change Would Mean for Broadcasters News and Political Ad Sales

While summer has started and minds wander to vacation time, there are still many regulatory obligations to which a broadcaster must pay attention in July.  To help stay focused, we have written below about some of the important dates and deadlines applicable to broadcasters in July – and a reminder of what to be ready for when the calendar rolls over to August.

The one regular deadline applicable to all full-power and Class A TV broadcasters in July is the July 10 deadline for stations to upload to their online public file their Quarterly Issues Programs lists identifying the issues of importance to their community and the programs that they broadcast in the second quarter of the year that addressed those issues.  Prepare these lists carefully and accurately, as they are your only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of your community.  You need to first list the significant issues facing the station’s community in the second quarter.  Then, for each issue identified, you should list several programs that addressed the issue in some serious way.  For each program, the description should include the issue that the program addressed, the name of the program or segment that covered the issue, the date and time the program or segment aired, the duration of the coverage of the issue, and a narrative describing how the issue was treated.  Timely uploading of these lists to the station’s online public file is especially important during the ongoing license renewal cycle when FCC staff are looking closely at public file contents.  See our article here for more on this obligation.
Continue Reading July Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, The End of Analog TV, EAS Test Registration Requirement, Radio and TV Rulemakings, 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.

  • The FCC asked for public comment on a proposal to increase from 100 to 250 watts the maximum power allowed

There can be no doubt that local newspapers have been significantly impacted over the last two decades by the ascent of the Internet.  And, as we have written before (see, for instance, our article here), digital media has also had a significant impact on the local revenues of broadcasters, who also have traditionally specialized in covering local events.  To study the effect of the decline in local news sources, legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to create a government committee to look at various aspects of this issue. The “Future of Local News Committee” would include individuals appointed by the majority and minority in the House and Senate, as well as individuals selected by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and the US Agency for Global Media.  Each appointee is to be someone experienced in some aspect of local media.  The committee would have one year to deliver a report to Congress.

What would they study?  The legislation suggests that the committee would have broad investigatory powers to review how the change in local media has affected local communities.  The bill’s preface includes language stating that over 2000 newspapers have gone out of business since 2004, and that of the 6,700 remaining, 1000 could be classified as “ghost newspapers” whose staffs have been so reduced that they cannot effectively cover local events.  The bill also cites a Pew Research study that shows that local newsroom employees at newspapers, broadcast outlets and digital sources dropped 25% from 2008-2018.  Perhaps most startling is the statement that newspapers alone lost more than $35,000,000,000 in revenue between 2004 and 2018.  All these factors, and many others cited in the bill, are alleged to show that local media can no longer effectively cover local events.
Continue Reading Does Local News Need Government Assistance to Survive – Legislation Proposed to Set Up Commission to Study the Impact of Changes in Local Media on Local Communities  

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 a speech to the Media Institute, FCC Commissioner Starks spoke of the importance of diversity in media ownership and

Everyone knows that a fundamental principle of American democracy is the First Amendment – guaranteeing many freedoms to US citizens including freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  It is one of those concepts that underlies our society, but is often mentioned only in passing, and rarely considered in practice.  Few people – even broadcasters and other media companies – have cause to think about First Amendment principles in their day-to-day operations.  The concepts embodied by the First Amendment are almost a given – except when they are not.

In our politically polarized society, there are more and more arguments made about regulation of speech in various contexts – often made without significant consideration of those First Amendment principles.  On the broadcast side, we have seen Commissioner Carr react to two cases where the FCC has seemingly been called on to regulate the speech (or anticipated speech) of broadcasters.  One case involved a call to deny the sale of a broadcast station allegedly based on a perceived change in the political orientation of its programming from liberal to conservative (see the Carr statement here), and another calling for the FCC to investigate a TV station in Baltimore for allegedly being too focused on investigations into a local government official (see the Carr statement here and an NAB statement also weighing in on the controversy here).  While there may well be issues in each case that go beyond the question of the proposed speech of the broadcasters involved, the issue of whether the FCC can get involved in the regulation of political positions taken by broadcasters is one that is addressed both by the Communications Act and past FCC precedent.
Continue Reading The First Amendment’s Role in Broadcast and Online Regulation

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’s new rules that permit AM broadcasters to convert to all-digital operations became effective April 29.  The new rules