Public Interest Obligations/Localism

In recent weeks, we saw press reports on a recommendation from the Attorney General to loosen federal restrictions on marijuana – reclassifying it by moving it off Schedule I (an illegal controlled substance with no medical uses and a high degree of potential abuse) to Schedule III, where many other drugs, including some requiring a prescription, are listed.  No official announcement about any reclassification action has been released, and even when it is, there are apparently other administrative steps that need to occur before any re-scheduling is final.  So, there are many regulatory hurdles still to come.

While a rescheduling to Schedule III may have an impact on research and marijuana’s medical uses, broadcasters need to continue to take a very cautious approach to marijuana advertising while the details of any possible change are worked out and likely even after any re-scheduling as, even as a Schedule III drug, advertising may still be restricted under federal law.Continue Reading Don’t Start Counting Marijuana Advertising Dollars Yet – Cautions Despite Possible Changes in Its Federal Classification

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 FTC announced that it will hold a 45-minute webinar on May 14 at 11:00 a.m. ET to provide an

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.

  • Perhaps the biggest regulatory news of the past week came not from the FCC, but instead from the Federal Trade

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from this 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 several dates and deadlines in proceedings of importance to broadcasters:

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

  • The debate over the AM for Every Vehicle Act intensified this week, with the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board publishing an article

With broadcasters and those in associated industries ready to make their annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the NAB Convention, the Wall Street Journal decided to weigh in on an issue important to many radio broadcasters – the future of AM in the car.  One of the priorities for many AM broadcasters in the last year has been to push for legislation to require that automobile manufacturers retain AM radio in the car dashboard to stem what many see as a trend toward removing AM (and potentially other free over-the-air radio options) from the car and replacing it with other entertainment options.  The concerns of broadcasters have led to the introduction in Congress of the AM in Every Vehicle Act, which proposes to mandate that AM be required as a safety feature in all cars until it is determined that there is another, free, ubiquitous option to deliver emergency alerts to drivers.  See our articles here and here for more on the Act.

While this Act has garnered much support on Capitol Hill, there has been a concern among some legislators about requiring mandates on a car industry, particularly for a technology that many see as outdated and in decline (see the declining numbers of AM stations we noted in our last weekly update on regulatory news for broadcasters, citing the FCC’s latest report on the number of broadcast stations in the country).  The Journal Editorial Board article takes that same position, almost treating the attempts to keep AM radio in cars as a joke, arguing that it imposes additional unnecessary costs on car makers – costs that will be borne by all car buyers, even those who don’t need or use AM radio.  The article suggests that the emergency communications function is unnecessary as there are other alternatives to receive emergency alerts even in rural areas of the country.  The article asks if mandating AM in the home is next, and suggests that, without a mandate, car makers could use AM as a competitive feature to attract consumers to brands that maintain these radios in the car.Continue Reading On the Eve of the NAB Convention, Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Article Opposes AM in Every Vehicle Act

Last week, the FCC approved a long-pending request by GeoBroadcast Solutions to allow FM boosters to originate limited amounts of programming that is different from what is broadcast on the booster’s primary station.  Boosters operate on the same channel as an FM broadcast station and have traditionally been used to fill in holes in an FM station’s coverage area where service that would otherwise be predicted to occur is blocked by terrain obstacles or some other impediment that prevents the main station from reaching a part of the station’s primary service area (in most cases a 60 dBu or 1 mv/m signal) predicted using the FCC’s standard coverage prediction methodology.  As boosters operate on the same channel as the main station, their use has always been limited because of fears of creating interference to the main station’s signal if not properly shielded by terrain or other obstacles.  The service approved last week – called “geocasting” or “zonecasting” – is supposed to allow boosters to originate limited amounts of programming different from the primary station and minimize interference not by terrain, but by other signal timing and coordination methodologies.  The proponent of the system claimed that this would minimize interference and allow stations to originate different commercials, news reports, or other geographically targeted programming in the different parts of a station’s service area to better compete with the geotargeting used by the digital media companies that are now competitors to radio.

Numerous broadcasters, and the NAB, had opposed this effort, as we noted in a recent article on the controversy.  Their fear was that no matter how good the synchronization of these boosters may be, there will still be the potential for some interference.  Just by putting more signals on the FM band in close proximity to each other, some interference naturally will result.  Objections were also raised about the economic impact of the proposals.  With more radio inventory addressing fewer people, there are fears that the implementation of this proposal could drive down radio advertising prices far below the rate now in place.  In addition, there are worries about the impact that geocasting could have in outlying smaller markets – as big market stations could use boosters in outlying parts of their service areas to target advertisers in these areas, taking advertising away from the full power stations serving those outlying communities.  The FCC’s order last week noted that the New Jersey broadcasters expressed particular concern, as New York and Philadelphia stations could use boosters to target advertisers who now buy advertising on New Jersey stations to reach local consumers because rates on the big city stations are cost prohibitive for reaching a targeted audience.  The fear is that these advertisers will now use the boosters of big city stations and abandon their local broadcasters, and that big stations will get bigger and more dominant, at the expense of the local stations doing local service to these outlying areas.Continue Reading FCC Approves Origination of Programming on FM Boosters to Facilitate Geocasting – Targeting Different Ads or Programming to Different Parts of FM Station’s Service Area

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 adopted a decision resolving the FCC’s long-pending proceeding on whether to authorize FM “zonecasting” or “geo-targeting,” permitting FM

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

For the first time since October, we can say that the federal government is funded for the rest of the fiscal year (through the end of September) so we do not expect to have to report on any threats of a government shutdown for many months. With that worry off our plate, we can look at the dates that broadcasters do need to pay attention to in the month of April.

First, we’ll look at the most significant routine filing deadlines coming up in April.  April 1 is the deadline for radio and television station employment units in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas with five or more full-time employees to upload their Annual EEO Public File Report to their stations’ online public inspection files.  A station employment unit is a station or cluster of commonly controlled stations serving the same general geographic area having at least one common employee.  For employment units with five or more full-time employees, the annual report covers hiring and employment outreach activities for the prior year.  A link to the uploaded report must also be included on the home page of each station’s website, if the station has a website.  Be timely getting these reports into your public file, as even a single late report can lead to FCC fines (see our article here about a recent $26,000 fine for a single late EEO report).

The filing of the Annual EEO Public File Reports for radio station employment units in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee with eleven or more full-time employees triggers a Mid-Term EEO Review, where the FCC will analyze the last two Annual Reports for compliance with FCC requirements.  There is no form to file to initiate this review but, when radio stations located in those states with five or more full-time employees are required to upload to their public file their annual EEO Public File Report, they must also indicate in the online public file whether their employment unit has eleven or more full-time employees, using a checkbox now included in the public file’s EEO folder.  This allows the FCC to determine which station groups need a Mid-Term Review.  See our articles here and here on Mid-Term EEO Review reporting requirements for radio stations.Continue Reading April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – EEO Reports, Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists, LUC Windows, Rulemaking Comments, and More