Programming Regulations

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

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.

Last week, when the NFL playoffs and upcoming Super Bowl had everyone thinking football, Congress held a hearing on how streaming media has affected sports and other video programming rights.  We noted that hearing in our weekly update this weekend.  As we said in our update, the hearing touched on all the video media issues of the day – sports rights, retransmission consent, the changing balance between pay TV (cable and satellite) versus streaming, and similar issues (the House staff memo outlining the issues to be discussed at the hearing can be viewed here, and a video of the hearing can be viewed here).  During the discussion, there were even some questions about whether there needed to be some local access mandates for some forms of programming – whether that be sports or, probably more importantly, access to emergency information.  In some sense, that discussion provided some faint echoes of the debate over mandates to preserve AM radio in the car (see our articles here and here).  The discussion, and a review of recent articles on accessing sports events without pay TV that omit any discussion of over-the-air television, makes clear that everyone in the industry needs to do more to emphasize the role that over-the-air television plays in the media landscape before those faint echoes of the AM debate become pronounced.

While the hearing touched how some local television stations have been able to acquire some sports rights from failing regional sports networks and expand the viewership for those games, the role of local television broadcasting was overshadowed by the discussion of the rights issues and streaming video.  Yet the role of local media, including local television, is one that pervades many of the regulatory debates ongoing at the FCC.  The FCC and NAB are cooperating with other industry stakeholders in exploring the role of over-the-air television in connection with the roll out of the new ATSC 3.0 “Next Gen” television transmission standard.  The health of local television, and whether local ownership restrictions should be lessened to ensure that television can better compete from digital media that is directly affecting both the audiences and advertising revenue of every station, was part of the debate over the Quadrennial Review decision released by the FCC in December, and this issue is likely to be debated in any appeal that may follow from that decision.  Local over-the-air television also is under consideration in many other pending FCC proceedings, including possible review of the main studio rules, priority processing of applications proposing local programming, emergency communications issues, and many other topics under consideration at the FCC. Continue Reading Sports Rights, the Super Bowl, and the Perception of Local Over-the-Air TV

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 announced the circulation for Commissioner review and approval of two decisions of interest to broadcasters, signifying that we

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 FCC last week issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed to give incentives to broadcasters to air more local journalism and local programming by prioritizing the processing of certain applications by stations that feature local programming.  That decision drew dissents from both of the FCC’s Republican Commissioners, not because of the proposal for the preference, but because they were concerned about language in the Notice asking for comment on whether the FCC was correct in its 2017 decision that abolished the main studio rule and the policy requiring broadcasters to have the capability of originating programming from a physical location in their service areas.  

The proposal to prioritize the processing of applications by stations with local programming is a narrow one.  The priority would only apply to renewal applications, and applications for sales of full-power stations (assignments of licenses and transfers of control).  The FCC’s proposal would not apply this preference to routine applications that are processed in the normal course (with renewals usually being granted within a month after the three-month comment period following the renewal filing deadline, and assignment and transfer applications similarly being routinely granted within a few weeks of the end of the 30 day public comment period following the public notice of the filing of an application for FCC approval of the sale).  Instead, the majority decision proposes to apply the priority only to applications that are non-routine, giving faster processing to applications that have petitions filed against them, or where the FCC has other concerns with a routine grant of the application (seemingly, in the renewal context, that would apply to cases where there are certifications in the application that cannot be made by an applicant, e.g., where it cannot certify that it had properly maintained its public inspection file during the license term, or that the applicant had not violated FCC rules or had not been silent for an extended period during the license term).Continue Reading FCC Proposes to Prioritize Processing of Applications by Stations with Local Programming – And Asks Many Questions About Whether the FCC Should Have Abolished the Main Studio Rule

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.

  • President Biden signed a Continuing Resolution passed by Congress averting a federal government shutdown that was to begin on January

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

A new year – and our annual opportunity to pull out the crystal ball and look at the legal issues that will be facing broadcasters in the new year.  We’ve already published our 2024 Broadcasters Calendar and, as we noted before the holidays, it highlights the many lowest unit rate windows for the November election.  With a heavily contested election almost upon us, there may be calls on the FCC to modify regulations affecting political broadcasting or for more monitoring of broadcasters’ online public files, which caused so many issues in recent years (see for instance, our posts here and here).  Even if there are no FCC proceedings that deal with the rules for political broadcasting, the election will be watched by all broadcasters, and all Americans, to see the direction in which the country will head for the next four years.  With that election looming, 2024 may be a very active year in regulation as there traditionally is significant post-election turnover at the FCC no matter which party wins.  With that turnover in mind, we may see Commissioners looking to cement their regulatory legacies in the coming year.

Last year, we noted the number of pending issues at the FCC that had not been resolved because of the partisan deadlock on the Commission while the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the one vacant seat was stalled in the Senate.  That deadlock was finally overcome by her withdrawal from consideration and the subsequent nomination and confirmation of Anna Gomez, who was sworn in as a Commissioner in late September.  Since then, the FCC has acted on several long-pending priorities, including the adoption of open internet rules and, for broadcasters, last week’s adoption of an Order resolving the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the local broadcast ownership rules (see our summary of that action here). Continue Reading Gazing into the Crystal Ball at Legal and Policy Issues for Broadcasters in 2024 – Part I: What to Expect From 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