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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.

For the last few years at this time of the year, we’ve departed from our usual coverage of legal and policy issues to talk about something else – broadcasters giving back.  With Giving Tuesday upon us, we wanted to urge our readers to consider ways to give back to our industry.  I guess it is now a tradition, so we’ll do it again this year and suggest some of the many ways we can express our thanks to the industry in which we work.  Broadcasters have long been known for their service to their communities, service benefitting individuals and groups across the country.  While broadcasters are always giving back to their communities and should be celebrated for that, those of us who make our living in some aspect of the industry should recognize that there are plenty of ways for us to give back as well – both to those associated with the industry who have fallen on hard times, and to those who need assistance in obtaining education and training to enter the media industry we so appreciate.

During the last two years when normal routines have been upended, those of us who have remained healthy and employed are truly blessed. We should all be thankful for jobs, friends, and good fortune. But we should also ourselves give back where possible.  In the broadcast industry itself, there are many groups doing good work.

One that bears mention is the Broadcasters Foundation of America, which provides relief to broadcasters and former broadcasters who have, for one reason or another, fallen on hard times – whether that be for health reasons or because of some other disaster that has affected their lives. The Foundation deserves your consideration. More about the Foundation and its service, and ways to contribute, can be found at their website, here.
Continue Reading Giving Tuesday – How We Can Give Back to the Broadcast Industry

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.

In a decision this week on the sale of radio stations by Univision Radio to Latino Media Network, the Audio Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau discussed the FCC’s longstanding prohibition on the seller of a broadcast station retaining a “reversionary interest” in the station it is selling.  In this case, FCC staff found that the intent of the buyer to enter into a Local Marketing Agreement by which the seller would program some of the stations after closing was not a reversionary interest, because the buyer was free to make programming decision for the stations as long as it retained ultimate control over that programming and station operations.  Had the LMA been a condition of the sale, or had it served as partial consideration for the sale, the FCC suggested that it would have violated the prohibition against revisionary interests. But as the seller did not make the LMA a condition of the sale, the post-closing decision to enter into an LMA was a programming decision under the control of the buyer and thus was not deemed to be a prohibited reversionary interest.  No matter what the holding of this case, a more fundamental question arises – what is a reversionary interest and why is it prohibited?

In reviewing our blog when writing this article, we noted that in the almost 17 years we have been publishing, we don’t seem to have ever referred specifically to the question of reversionary or retained interests in a broadcast station.  It is an issue that does not come up often, but it is related to another issue that we have written about before – the prohibition on a lender taking a security interest in a broadcast license (see, for instance, our two part article on security interests in broadcast licenses, here and here).  The prohibition on the right of reversion or retained interest in a broadcast license is set out in Section 73.1150 of the FCC rules, which states:

(a) In transferring a broadcast station, the licensee may retain no right of reversion of the license, no right to reassignment of the license in the future, and may not reserve the right to use the facilities of the station for any period whatsoever.

(b) No license, renewal of license, assignment of license or transfer of control of a corporate licensee will be granted or authorized if there is a contract, arrangement or understanding, express or implied, pursuant to which, as consideration or partial consideration for the assignment or transfer, such rights, as stated in paragraph (a) of this section, are retained.

The prohibition against the right of reversion, and the prohibition against a lender taking a security interest directly in a license, were both adopted by the FCC to implement Communications Act requirements that state that a broadcast license does not convey an ownership interest in the spectrum being used, but instead only confers on the license holder a right to use the spectrum that does not extend “beyond the terms, conditions, and periods of the license.”  In adopting the prohibitions against a reversionary interest, and the prohibitions on taking a security interest in a license, the FCC believed that these interests would imply an ownership interest in the license akin to the ownership interest that one might hold in other forms of property that can be subject to leases, mortgages, and other security interests.  Thus, the restrictions were imposed over half a century ago.  But, since being implemented, the FCC has from time to time questioned whether these restrictions really were necessary.
Continue Reading FCC Decision Discusses Prohibition on Retaining Reversionary Interests in Broadcast Licenses After Sale – What Is a Reversionary Interest and Why Is It Prohibited? 

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 recent FCC staff decision dismissing an application for a new noncommercial educational (NCE) FM station on technical grounds highlighted a rarely used section of the FCC rules, Section 73.561(b).  That section provides that, when an NCE FM station does not regularly operate for at least 12 hours per day, another noncommercial entity can file an application proposing to use the frequency during the hours that the station is not operating and, if the existing licensee and the new applicant cannot agree on a shared operating schedule, the new applicant can ask the FCC to force the shared-time operation (for more on the recent case, see our summary in our weekly update of broadcast regulatory actions for last week).

The rule states that the FCC will typically only force a time share operation when an application asking for share-time authority is on file during the pendency of the existing station’s license renewal application.  As most radio license renewals have already been granted during the recent three-year cycle for radio license renewals that ended earlier this year, most NCE stations do not face a real risk of a forced share-time operation until the next renewal cycle starts in 2027.  But an application seeking frequency sharing can be filed at any time in situations where an NCE FM station does not regularly operate for at least 12 hours per day, forcing negotiations about a shared time operation, and no doubt increasing scrutiny on the station during its next renewal.  Thus, such NCE stations should review their operating schedules now and think about ways to minimize the risk of a forced share-time operation.
Continue Reading Reminder to Noncommercial FM Stations – Operating Less Than 12 Hours a Day Can Bring Forced Time-Share Requirement

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 effective date of a recently adopted FCC Report and Order aimed at making emergency alerts delivered over television and

At each of the last two of the FCC’s recent regular monthly open meetings, the Commission addressed EAS issues that affect broadcasters. In one case, it adopted new rules that will, among other things, require that broadcasters use on-air the “IPAWS” internet-delivered emergency message in the CAP format, if the broadcaster receives the alert in both the CAP and traditional over-the-air formats.  The second action starts a rulemaking to look at imposing on broadcasters an obligation to secure their EAS systems from hacking and other electronic intrusions – and to regularly report to the FCC about what they are doing in connection with such security measures.  Let’s look in a little more depth at these actions (which we have previously briefly summarized in our weekly updates, here and here).

At its September 29 open meeting, the FCC adopted a Report and Order with the announced intention of making emergency alerts delivered over television and radio stations more informative and easier to understand by the public, particularly people with disabilities. The updated rules require broadcasters, cable systems, and other Emergency Alert System participants to transmit the Internet-based version of alerts when available (those transmitted through the internet based Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, “IPAWS,” using the Common Alerting Protocol or “CAP” protocol)  rather than transmitting the legacy over-the-air “daisy chain” version of alerts which often contain less information or have lower quality than that of CAP-delivered alerts.  As noted by the FCC, the CAP format allows for more information, including video clips (for TV), augmented warning information, and even foreign-language versions of alerts to be transmitted – information not available from alerts that are transmitted over-the-air.
Continue Reading FCC Looks at EAS Rules – Requires That Broadcast Alerts Default to CAP, and Seeks Comments on Securing the System

With election results still being tabulated in many states in close political races, we thought that it is worth reminding broadcasters of the advice given by the FCC in 2020, when it issued a public notice stating that Lowest Unit Charges (or lowest unit rates as they are often called) do not apply to post-election

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 issued a Forfeiture Order imposing a penalty of $518,283 against Gray Television, Inc., for violating the FCC’s prohibition

Any media platform that accepts ads for political races and ballot issues in Washington State is aware of the state’s detailed rules that govern all forms of political advertising.  Digital platforms, in particular, are concerned by state rules that require the platforms to maintain and make available to the public not only the information