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David Oxenford represents broadcasting and digital media companies in connection with regulatory, transactional and intellectual property issues. He has represented broadcasters and webcasters before the Federal Communications Commission, the Copyright Royalty Board, courts and other government agencies for over 30 years.

Last week, both the FCC and FEMA issued notices to broadcasters, cable and other EAS participants that there was a vulnerability in the EAS technologies that could make those systems subject to hacking, potentially allowing bad actors to send out messages to the public using the alerting system (see FCC notice here and FEMA notice

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.

  • Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the FCC released public notices, available here and here, alerting broadcasters

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.

  • A bill was introduced in the US Senate proposing to prohibit any FCC or criminal action against a broadcaster who

With the end of summer upon us, we begin to look forward to the regulatory issues that will face broadcasters as we barrel toward the end of the year.  One date on many broadcaster’s minds is the date by which the annual regulatory fees will be due to be paid.  While the payment date is almost certainly going to be sometime in September, look for an FCC decision on the amount of those fees at some point in late August.  As we wrote in last week’s summary of regulatory actions (and in many before), the amount that broadcasters will pay remains a matter of dispute, so watch for the resolution of that dispute by September, as fees must be paid before the October 1 start of the FCC’s next fiscal year.

But many other dates of importance to broadcasters will occur well before the resolution of the regulatory fee issue.  August 1 is the deadline for full power television, Class A television, LPTV, and TV translator license renewal applications for stations in California.  As we have previously advised,  renewal applications must be accompanied by FCC Form 2100, Schedule 396 Broadcast EEO Program Report (except for LPFMs and TV translators).  Stations filing for renewal of their license should make sure that all documents required to be uploaded to the station’s online public file are complete and were uploaded on time.  Note that your Broadcast EEO Program Report must include two years of Annual EEO Public File Reports for FCC review, unless your employment unit employs fewer than five full-time employees.  Be sure to read the instructions for the license renewal application and consult with your advisors if you have questions, especially if you have noticed any discrepancies in your online public file or political file.  Issues with the public file have already led to fines imposed on TV broadcasters during this renewal cycle.
Continue Reading August Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters:  Regulatory Fees, EEO Reports, Many Rulemaking Comment Dates, and More

As more and more states revise their laws to decriminalize or legalize marijuana use (for medical and recreational purposes), and more and more cannabis businesses in those states begin operations, broadcasters have been looking to provide their advertising services to these new companies.  But, as we’ve written before (see, for instance, our articles here and here) , marijuana is still illegal under federal law, as is the use of the radio airwaves to aide in its distribution.  Because broadcasters are federal licensees, there is a heightened concern that those federal licenses could be jeopardized if broadcasters start accepting such advertising.  In the last few weeks, however, there have been some legislative moves on Capitol Hill proposing to remove some of those concerns – but all such efforts have a way to go before broadcasters should consider changing their approach to such ads.

The bill that would seemingly have the potential to lift those restrictions is the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a draft bill that would remove marijuana from Schedule I, which is the list of drugs that are prohibited for all purposes under federal law (see draft text here and summaries here and here).  While Senate Majority Leader Schumer had indicated that this bill might be considered by the Senate soon, there are many questions as to whether there are sufficient votes to pass the measure, whether there would be enough time to get House approval before the end of the Congressional term, and even whether the President would agree to sign the legislation if passed. Looking at the text, you realize that it is not a simple piece of legislation, as it would change many aspects of government policy to accommodate the proposed change in status of marijuana under federal law.  Even if it were to become law, its effect on the advertising of marijuana may not be immediate.
Continue Reading Looking at Legislative Proposals that Would Allow Broadcasters to Accept Marijuana Advertising

Recently, I’ve received many calls from broadcasters about the FCC public file obligations for issue ads (those ads not bought by legally qualified candidates or their authorized committees) – particularly concerning the different treatment between issue ads dealing with federal candidates or federal matters, and those dealing with state and local matters.  There was much controversy about the public file requirements for federal issue ads over the last two years – resulting in an FCC clarification that we wrote about here and here, making clear that the public file obligation for federal issue ads include the requirement that a station’s public file disclosures include a list of all of the federal candidates and issues mentioned in the ad.  The FCC also imposed an affirmative obligation on the broadcaster to confirm with the federal issue advertiser that it does not have multiple executive officers or directors if the advertiser only provides one individual’s name.  These obligations are in addition to the requirement that stations upload to their public file, within one business day of when an order for a federal issue ad is received, information about the order, including the price to be paid for the ads and the schedule that the buyer is requesting.  Whether or not the order for ads addressing a federal issue is accepted by the station also must be uploaded to the public file.

There are different requirements for state and local issue ads, about which we wrote last year here.  Issue ads that do not deal with federal issues do not trigger any obligation to upload information about the price and schedule of an ad to a station’s online public file.  Nor do state and local issue ads trigger the obligation to list every candidate and issue mentioned in the ad.  But they do still require the public file identification of the sponsor of the ad, and the executive officers or directors of the sponsor when the sponsor is not an individual.  Thus, ads dealing with state and local matters – like state ballot issues, or local zoning controversies, or even ads that attack or support state or local candidates (when those ads are not bought by a candidate-authorized committee and do not address any federal issue) – only require the identification of the ad sponsor and its officers or directors in a document uploaded to the station’s political file.  Why the difference?
Continue Reading Why Federal and State Issue Ads Have Different Broadcast Public File Requirements

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.

A new Chief Copyright Royalty Judge of the Copyright Royalty Board has just been named by the Librarian of Congress.  According to the Press Release announcing his appointment, David Shaw will fill that position after having previously served as an administrative law judge on the International Trade Commission for over 10 years.  There, he heard complex cases dealing with detailed financial matters – experience that sounds relevant to the kinds of cases he will be deciding on the CRB.  The Copyright Royalty Judges decide cases determining the marketplace value of music when  setting royalty rates, and that look at the relative value of programming when deciding the distribution of cable royalties to program copyright holders.  In addition to ITC experience, Shaw was a judge at the Social Security Administration and, according to his biography, worked in the General Counsel’s office at NPR early in his career.  With the appointment of this new Chief Judge, we thought that it would be worth looking at some of the specific areas in which the CRB makes decisions that affect media companies.

The CRB is principally charged with rates and distributions for copyrights governed by a “statutory licenses.”  A statutory license is created by Congress when it is believed that individual negotiations between copyright holders and copyright users would either be unduly complex so as to be almost unworkable or where an efficient market would not otherwise exist.  Essentially, the statutory license means that the copyright owner must license the work that they own – they cannot restrict its use – if the user pays the royalties set by law or established by the CRB and abides by the conditions for use set out in the law.  See our article here about music statutory licenses and our articles here and here on some of the issues with the TV statutory licenses.  The conditions of use are often carefully restricted so as to only cover very specific uses under the statutory license (see our article here on the conditions placed on the use of music under the statutory license for webcasting – the public performance right for sound recordings used by noninteractive services discussed below).

Continue Reading New Copyright Royalty Board Chief Judge Named – Looking at the Issues Considered by the CRB of Importance to Media Companies

The FCC’s Audio Division, in the latter part of the license renewal cycle for radio stations, seems to have adopted a more aggressive position on stations that were silent for extended periods of time during their license term.  In our summary of last week’s events of importance to broadcasters, we noted one case where an Oklahoma AM station was granted a license renewal for a one-year term, instead of the normal eight years, because the station had been silent for 50% of its license term.  Yesterday, another decision was issued granting the license renewals of 7 Texas stations for only one year because these stations had been silent for 25% of their license term (as well as a significant period of time after the license renewal applications were filed).  These and other decisions in recent months show that the FCC is cracking down on stations that are silent for extended periods of time, even if those periods of silence had been authorized by the FCC pursuant to a request for special temporary authority to remain silent.

In each of these decisions, the FCC notes that silent stations cannot be serving the public interest.  When they are silent, they are not providing information to local residents, nor are they relaying EAS alerts.  As the stations are falling short on their obligation to serve the public by extended periods of silence (even if those periods of silence are authorized), the FCC has been issuing these short-term renewals to be able to monitor the performance of these stations to assure that they are continuing to operate during the next year – rather than having to wait until the end of a normal 8-year term to decide if the station has been serving the public.
Continue Reading FCC Cracking Down on Long Periods of Station Silence – Short-Term Renewals for Radio Stations Silent More than 25% of License Term

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 US Court of Appeals this week determined that the FCC’s requirement that broadcasters confirm by searching DOJ and FCC