For the first time since the term of FCC Commissioner Tate expired and Chairman Martin resigned, the FCC will be back to full strength with the Senate’s approval of new FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Meredith Attwell Baker.  What issues of importance to broadcasters will the Commission, now headed by Chairman Julius Genachowski, take up in coming months?   The new Chairman, who gave a number of interviews last week with the trade and popular press, emphasized the importance of the broadband rollout.  Beyond that, his priorities for the broadcast media were not detailed.  He did, however, emphasize, that any broadcast regulation (specifically referencing the mandatory review of the broadcast ownership rules that must begin next year), would have to take into account the realities of the marketplace – including the current economic conditions.

Beyond that, there were few clues as to the new FCC’s priorities in the broadcast world.  But, even though there are no indications of the FCC’s priorities, there are many open broadcast issues that the Commission will, sooner or later, need to resolve.  Some involve fundamental questions of priorities – trying to decide which user of the spectrum should be preferred over others.  Other issues deal with questions of what kind of public service obligations broadcasters will face.  And yet another set of issues deal with just the nitty gritty technical issues with which the FCC is often faced.  Let’s look at some of these open issues that may affect the broadcast industry. 


Continue Reading A Full Five Person FCC – What’s Next For Broadcasters?

Three of the FCC Commissioners have responded to the Congressional inquiry about the Commission’s rules regarding junk food advertising about which we wrote here.  This inquiry was initiated by Congressman Ed Markey, Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The Congressman’s letter had urged the FCC to move quickly to implement rules limiting the advertising of unhealthy food aired during broadcasting directed to children.  The Commissioners’ responses uniformly indicate the potential for regulation, depending in part on the outcome of the activities of the industry Task Force formed at the initiation of, and with the participation by, the FCC and Congress. See our reports on the formation of the Task Force, here.  The Commissioners all note that should the Task Force fail to conclude that the industry has achieved satisfactory results through self-regulation, FCC proceedings might be required to insure that children are not unduly exposed to junk food advertisements. 

Two commissioners, Chairman Martin and Commissioner Tate, responded jointly, and indicated that the FCC could explore regulation of unhealthy food, perhaps looking at guidelines adopted in other countries as a model for US regulation.  These Commissioners’ statement even address the issue of regulating children’s programming on cable television networks, where they claim that there is much exposure to ads for junk food.  These statements make clear that this is not just an issue for the broadcast industry.


Continue Reading Commission Responds to Congressional Inquiry on Children’s Junk Food Ads