Public Interest Obligations/Localism

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

This week, Commissioners Carr and Starks issued a joint statement congratulating Chairwoman Rosenworcel for circulating an order to resolve the FCC’s long-pending proceeding about whether to authorize “zonecasting” or “geo-targeting” for FM stations.  Zonecasting would allow FM broadcasters to use FM booster stations operating on the same channel as their main signal, within a station’s existing service area, to originate different programming in different parts of their markets.  Theoretically, this would allow a station to run different commercials in different parts of a station’s service area during the same commercial break. The Commissioners applauded the technical innovation giving broadcasters a choice as to whether they will implement the new system.  While some small broadcasters have supported this proposal, many other broadcasters have vehemently opposed the idea.  Why would so many broadcasters oppose the idea that the Commission seems poised to adopt?

Many of the objections are technical in nature.  Even though the proponents of the system argue that they have minimized any interference that would occur from different FM boosters originating different programming on the same channel as the main station on the same frequency in the same service area, other broadcasters argue that no matter how good the technology, putting more signals on the same channel cannot avoid creating more FM noise.  In today’s electronic world, there are already innumerable sources of potential noise to over-the-air signals, and adding programming on the same channel cannot avoid adding to the problem.Continue Reading FCC Nears Decision on Zonecasting for FM Stations – What’s at Stake?

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

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’s January 12 report listing the items on circulation (those orders or rulemaking proposals that have been drafted and

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