Public Interest Obligations/Localism

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 significant win for television broadcasters, a federal district court in New York determined that the nonprofit company Locast,

As Fall approaches and kids head back to school, be sure not to lose track of the regulatory dates and deadlines in September.  We outline some of those dates below.  One date is applicable to all commercial broadcasters, the obligation to pay regulatory fees.  While the exact due date has not yet been announced, look for that announcement any day as the Commission adopted the decision setting those fees last week.  See the Report and Order, here, for more details and to see what your station owes.  As part of that proceeding, the FCC also decided to seek comment on assessing fees in the future on users of unlicensed spectrum, especially large tech companies.  Many such users manufacture devices or provide other applications that use spectrum or otherwise benefit from FCC regulation, but right now do not pay fees.  Watch for comment dates on this proposal in the near future.  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking begins on page 38, here.

Comment dates have been set for parties that want to weigh in on the FCC’s media ownership rules.  They have until September 2 to file their comments in the 2018 Quadrennial Review proceeding, which focuses most heavily on local radio ownership regulation.  These comments are to refresh the record with updated information about the state of the media marketplace since initial comments in the proceeding were filed over two years ago.  Reply comments are due by October 1.  We wrote more about this review of media ownership, here.
Continue Reading September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Regulatory Fees, Media Ownership and Sponsorship Identification Comments, Auction Applications, 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.

  • On Friday, the FCC released its decision setting 2021 annual regulatory fees. In a win for broadcasters, the NAB and

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.

  • Two Federal Register notices set dates for changes to the FCC’s EAS rules. We wrote about these issues here and

The minority tax certificate is back in the news with revised bills being introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  We wrote about a version of this bill introduced in the last session of Congress here.  The tax certificate offers perhaps the most meaningful route to increasing diversity in broadcast ownership.  While the certificate was abolished by Congress over 25 years ago, these new bills signaling the potential for its revival merits another examination of what this policy did and why it was effective, and what is now being proposed.

The minority tax certificate was a program designed to provide broadcasters with an economic incentive to sell their stations to minority owners.  Rather than directly subsidizing the potential owners, the certificate instead gave a tax break to sellers of broadcast stations that incentivized them to sell to a minority-owned business even if there were multiple bidders for their properties.  If the seller sold its station to a minority-owned business, the seller could take the proceeds from the sale and roll those proceeds over into a new media property without recognizing the taxable gain from the sale.  Unlike the typical like-kind exchange where the roll-over into a new property has to proceed within a few months of the sale, the tax certificate treated the sale as an involuntary sale (like the sale of a property because of a government’s exercise of eminent domain) under Section 1033 of the tax code, giving the seller several years to roll the proceeds over into a new purchase.  At that point, the new property would have the same tax basis as the old – meaning that no gain would be recognized until the sale of the new property.  In the closing decades of the last century, this policy spurred many sales to minority-controlled companies by broadcasters looking not to get out of the business, but instead looking to realign their holdings or to move up into larger markets.  Several hundred radio and TV stations were purchased under this program in the last 20 years of the program’s existence.  Why was this seemingly successful program abandoned?
Continue Reading Bills Introduced to Bring Back Tax Certificate to Foster Diversity in Broadcast Ownership – Exploring the Proposals

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 run-up to the August 11 National EAS Test, the FCC released a Public Notice reminding broadcasters to ensure

Last week, another bill was introduced in both the House and the Senate with the intention of supporting local media to help offset the erosion of their advertising base by digital media.  The Local Journalism Sustainability Act (text of House bill here, and summary of Senate bill here) proposes certain benefits for local newspaper subscribers, as well as benefits to advertisers who advertise on local media – both broadcast and print.  For newspaper subscribers, individuals can get tax credits of up to $250 per year to cover a portion of their newspaper subscription fees.  For advertisers who place advertising on either a local newspaper or a local broadcast stations, a tax credit of up to $5000 would be available to certain small businesses who utilize local media to get their advertising messages to their communities.

In addition, the bill would provide local media a tax credit of up to $12,500 for hiring local “journalists” who spend at least 100 hours per year on reporting local news.  While the current House version of the bill provides this credit only to newspaper companies, the summary of the Senate version proposes that it also be extended to broadcasters.  This provision in particular has brought support from the RTDNA – the association that represents news professionals – who see it as an incentive to local media outlets to hire more news professionals.
Continue Reading The Local Journalism Sustainability Act – Another Congressional Proposal to Help Local 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’s Video Division of its Media Bureau has begun to release decisions on TV license renewal applications filed in

Last week, we wrote about two dissenting opinions in a Supreme Court decision that highlight the debate that is underway on the principles that govern defamation liability in the United States.  While we are reviewing Supreme Court decisions that could have an impact on broadcasters, including on political advertising, we thought that we should highlight another decision of the Supreme Court, a case called Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, Attorney General of California, that could have an even more direct effect on the political advertising disclosure obligations of broadcasters.  In that case, the Court struck down a California requirement that charities operating in California reveal to the state their major donors.  Even though the state was supposed to keep this information confidential, the Court felt that the potential for disclosure of the contributors to groups dealing with controversial issues could chill their willingness to donate to the charitable groups, due to fears of repercussions should their donations become public (thus, in effect, creating a restraint on their First Amendment right to free association).  But could this decision have a wider impact on First Amendment rights and potentially affect disclosure obligations about contributions used for political advertising?

At least one commentator, George Will, seemed to think so.  In a column that he wrote last week, he suggests that supporters of the DISCLOSE Act (we wrote about a similar bill introduced 5 years ago here) should be worried  about its constitutionality in light of this Supreme Court decision.  If creating fears about the repercussions of donations to charitable organizations is seen as constitutionally suspect, a court could draw a similar conclusion about donations to political speech organizations.  The Supreme Court’s decision does acknowledge that the government could justify narrowly tailored disclosure obligations that advanced an important government interest, and the Court has, in the past, upheld disclosure obligations for contributors to political campaigns.  But would today’s Court see things the same way?  Would it make distinctions between disclosures of donations directly to campaigns (which have been upheld in the past where they could be seen as being linked to an attempt to buy influence with a candidate) versus  donations to third-party organizations that may engage in political speech, including support or opposition to candidates, which the Court might view  as the donors exercise of its free speech rights (as were the political expenditures by corporations in the Citizen’s United case – see our articles here and here)?  Time will tell how the ramifications of the Court’s decision will play out.
Continue Reading Could a Supreme Court Decision Affect Disclosure Obligations on Political Advertising?

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