Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, and a look ahead at an important deadline next week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • New FCC sponsorship identification rules that impose obligations on almost

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 issued a Public Notice urging all communications companies to take steps to ensure the security of their facilities

My law firm partner, Jonathan Cohen, has been closely monitoring the developments in the regulation of social media and other big tech platforms by the current administration.  He offers these thoughts on likely areas of legislative and regulatory action in this area in the coming year. 

Many nights, the last thing I do before falling asleep is put down my phone, and the first thing I do upon waking is pick it up.  I know I’m not alone in this.  And how many times have we made an online purchase from bed?  Internet-enabled digital technologies seem to have transformed life for most Americans, changing how we conduct business, connect with each other, and receive information and entertainment.  The advent of these technologies in recent years is what former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in his 2019 book From Gutenberg to Google, calls the “third major network revolution,” after the invention of movable-type printing and the innovations in travel and communications brought about by railroads and the telegraph.  This new revolution is rapidly changing our information ecosystem.

Beyond the commercial opportunities and challenges presented for tech, media, and telecom companies, as well as content creators, the societal impact of this third major network revolution is fascinating and wide-ranging, but also potentially troubling.  Illustrating the power that tech platforms exert over us, Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times recently reported on a conversation she’d had with a 10-year-old boy who was disappointed that no photos were available when he Googled himself.  The boy felt that he wasn’t a real person until his photo came up in a Google search.  Leaving aside the numerous sociological implications of the tech revolution, the tech sector is under scrutiny as never before.  Its business model of tracking users’ online actions and using the data to sell targeted advertising and feed algorithmic amplification has been described by Harvard professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff as “surveillance capitalism.”  Others call it the “attention economy.”
Continue Reading Hot Topic for 2022: Tech Regulation

As the holiday season comes to an end and 2022 comes into focus, broadcasters have several dates and deadlines to keep up with in January and early February.  We have noted below some of the important dates you should be tracking.  However, as always, stay in touch with your station’s lawyers and other regulatory advisors for the dates applicable to your operations.  We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful New Year – and remembering to track important regulatory dates will help you  achieve those ends.

Let’s start with some of the annual dates that always fall in January.  By January 10, full-power radio, TV, and Class A licensees should have their quarterly issues/programs lists uploaded to their online public file.  The lists are meant to identify the issues of importance to the station’s community and the programs that the station broadcast in October, November, and December that addressed those issues.  Prepare the lists carefully and accurately, as they are the only official records of how your station is serving the public and addressing the needs and interests of its community.  See our post here for more on this obligation.
Continue Reading January Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Issues/Programs Lists; Digital LPTV Deadline; Audio Description Expansion; Children’s Programming, Webcasting Royalties; NCE FM Settlement Window; and More

On December 2, 2021, the FCC held a forum on the accessibility of video programming delivered through online platforms (a recording of the event is available on the FCC website, here).  What is perhaps most notable about this forum is that it looked at whether the FCC could extend its authority over online platforms to include accessibility obligations which, thus far, have only been implicated when a broadcaster already subject to FCC accessibility obligations repurposes its programs for Internet use (see, for instance, the FCC’s significant fine imposed in a consent decree when Pluto TV, which is owned by Viacom CBS, rebroadcast certain content that had already been broadcast on television with captions).  One of the questions identified in the Public Notice announcing the Forum is whether the FCC has the authority to expand accessibility obligations to online platforms.

The seeming importance of the session could be seen from the introductory remarks by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Senator Ed Markey.  Senator Markey was one of the proponents of the Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).  In his remarks, he discussed the importance of taking the reforms that have been adopted for television programming and extending them to the Internet, given that so much video programming and viewership is now migrating to those platforms.
Continue Reading FCC Forum on Accessibility of Online Video Programming – Looking Beyond the Regulation of Broadcasters 

While Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the holiday season is upon us, broadcasters cannot ignore the regulatory world until the new year, as much is going on in December.  Below are some of the several important regulatory dates and deadlines in the coming month that you may need to deal with before the celebrations begin.

By December 1, all licensees of commercial and noncommercial full power TV, Class A TV, low power TV, AM radio, and FM radio stations must submit an ownership report that details the licensee’s ownership structure as of October 1, 2021.  The FCC has warned that there will be penalties for stations that do not file these reports.  Licensees with ownership structures that include parent entities must also file a report for each of those entities.  An informational session run by FCC staff is archived, here, and answers to frequently asked questions are available, here.  See our blog post covering ownership reporting, here.
Continue Reading December Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Ownership Reports, License Renewal Filings, EEO Filings and Reporting, Ancillary or Supplementary Service Fees, Political Advertising Reports, 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.

  • In the last two weeks, many stations have discovered that links to their FCC-hosted online public inspection file no longer

With FCC Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel now appointed permanent chair of the FCC, and with a fifth FCC Commissioner now having been nominated (Gigi Sohn), the FCC may soon be back to normal strength.  Even before that though, the FCC and other government agencies remain busy, with many important regulatory dates and deadlines in the coming weeks.  We have highlighted some of those dates below.  Pay close attention to these dates, especially the December 1 deadline to file biennial ownership reports that is applicable to all broadcasters.

Reply comments on the FCC proposal to bring back FCC Form 395-B are due by November 1 (comments were due by September 30 and can be read here).  Following the FCC’s review of comments and reply comments on the issue, enhanced equal employment opportunity data collection could again be a reality for broadcasters more than 20 years after the FCC suspended the form’s use.  Form 395-B was an annual report intended to gather information about the race and gender of broadcast employees, thrown out by the courts over fears of the unconstitutional use of the data to force broadcasters to make hiring decisions based on these factors.  We wrote more about the possible resurrection of Form 395-B, here.
Continue Reading November Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters: Reply Comments on EEO Reporting and KidVid Accessibility; New Noncommercial FM Filing Window; Biennial Ownership Reports; License Renewals; 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 Federal Trade Commission issued a press release which warns advertisers to avoid misleading endorsements. The FTC also sent a

The Copyright Office, at the request of Congress, has initiated a study to examine the rights and protections of news publishers under copyright and related laws.  The Office issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking public comment on a variety of issues that could extend new protections to “press publishers” and perhaps other content creators that go beyond those accorded by traditional principles of copyright law.  The Office terms these protections “ancillary copyright protections.”  The Notice of Inquiry tees up several specific proposals for consideration, asks many specific questions, and solicits additional ideas that should be considered to protect publishers.  Comments are due November 26, 2021.  The Copyright Office will also hold a virtual public roundtable on December 9 to consider these issues.  This study could have an impact both on traditional media outlets who produce content, and on digital media that shares those comments.

The impact of digital media on traditional publishers of content – especially news content – was the trigger for this review.  The Notice begins with a recitation of the financial impact that the growth of the internet has had on newspapers and other publishers (“publication” under the Copyright Act is the distribution of a copy or recording of a work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending.  While a pure public performance does not constitute publication, digital subscription services and similar on-demand uses of content would likely fit within this definition).  In its opening paragraphs, the Notice focuses on digital “news aggregators” and their impact on publishers.  The Notice takes a broad view of the term aggregator – talking not just of headline clipping sites devoted to specific topics, but also to broader digital media sites like Facebook and Google that feature content from a variety of other sources.  While recognizing that aggregators can drive traffic to publisher’s digital content, the Copyright Office seeks comment on whether these aggregators also harm publishers by sending traffic only to specific articles and not to an index or home page for a publisher where a viewer might be inclined to view more content (and perhaps more of the publisher’s own ads).  From that opening discussion of news aggregators, the Notice looks at possible “ancillary” rights that may assist publishers in overcoming any negative impact of aggregators. These are discussed below.
Continue Reading Copyright Office Initiates Study of “Ancillary Copyright Protections” Accorded to Publishers – Reviewing News Aggregation and Digital Media’s Use of News Content from Traditional Sources