The earthquake in Haiti has caused many to look for ways to help – including broadcasters.  While many broadcasters are already pitching in to do their part to aide relief effortsnoncommercial broadcasters are, in some cases, limited in what they can do.  Noncommercial stations cannot raise funds, even for other noncommercial groups, if that fundraising "substantially alters or suspends regular programming" of the station.  Under these rules, NCE ("Noncommercial educational) stations are thus forbidden to hold a telethon or other pledge drive that suspends normal programming where the proceeds would go to a third party – even a nonprofit third party group.  Thus, recognizing the magnitude of the tragedy in Haiti, the FCC has agreed to grant liberal waivers of these policies, issuing a public notice announcing that NCE stations wishing to conduct such efforts can simply file an electronic request, by email, with certain supervisors in the Media Bureau’s Audio and Video divisions, setting out the nature of the programming, its length, and the beneficiary.

We obviously applaud the FCC’s rapid response on this issue.  But we note that it is interesting that the Public Notice states that applicants for one of these waivers also must state whether the special fund-raising effort is part of the station’s normal fundraising, or if it is a separate program. The public notice does not mention that noncommercial stations can make fundraising appeals for third parties under the current FCC policies, as long as those appeals do not suspend or interfere with normal station programming.  It would seem to me that such appeals would permit a DJ on an NCE station, in a normal programming break, to urge listeners to contribute to the Red Cross or some other charity, or for a regularly scheduled talk show on a station to feature a discussion of the situation in Haiti and of how people can assist with disaster relief, without needing any specific approval of the FCC.  The key to whether a waiver of the FCC policies is necessary is whether there is a substantial alteration or suspension of the normal programming of the station.


Continue Reading FCC Permits Noncommercial Stations to Raise Funds For Haitian Relief – The Limits of Third Party Fundraising By NCE Stations

In a case released this week, the FCC decided to forgive a fine that had been imposed on a radio station for not timely filing its license renewal (and for operating after the license expired without authority).  The fine was eliminated because the station’s operator had declared bankruptcy, and the persons who were in charge of

A few weeks ago, we wrote about just how outmoded the FCC’s prohibitions on the cross ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations were in an era when newspapers seem to be going out of business at an alarming rate.   We quoted a DC trade press reporter who had mused that the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule could well

At the end of last year, we wrote about the decision of the Detroit newspapers to go to a 3 day a week publication schedule, and asked the question that we had heard posed by a writer for one of the communications trade publications – "will the FCC rules limiting the cross-ownership of broadcast stations and daily newspapers outlive the newspaper itself."  In the last few weeks, that question has become even more relevant.  The FCC’s decision to relax the cross-ownership restrictions in December 2007 drew widespread condemnation from many big-media opponents, and even attempts to overturn the decision, even though its direct effect was limited to the nation’s largest markets.  One now wonders whether, with the current economic condition of newspapers and broadcast stations, the rules should not be revisited, for purposes of further relaxing those rules, not tightening them.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a major newspaper in Denver stop its presses for the last time, and companies owning papers in many major markets, including Minneapolis, Philadelphia and New Haven, all declare bankruptcy.  At the same time, papers in San Francisco and Seattle have warned that they may also shut down if there are not significant savings found or new buyers.  Even venerable papers like the New York Times have been the subject of shut-down rumors, and the Wall Street Journal and other papers in the Rupert Murdoch empire have been said to be dragging down the profits of the News Corporation. 


Continue Reading Will the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross Ownership Rules Outlive the Newspaper?

In a decision released this week, the FCC granted the application of an FM station for license renewal, denying petitions filed by two former employees who contended that the station had violated a number of FCC rules.  After the FCC inspected the station and found only a few minor issues with the station’s public file

Last week, we wrote about how the Fairness Doctrine was applied before it was declared unconstitutional by the FCC in the late 1980s. When we wrote that entry, it seemed as if the whole battle over whether or not it would be reinstated was a tempest in a teapot. Conservative commentators were fretting over the re-imposition, while liberals were complaining that the conservatives were making up issues. But what a difference a week makes.

Perhaps it is the verbal jousting that is going on between the political parties over the influence of Rush Limbaugh that has reignited the talk of the return of the Doctrine, but this week it has surprisingly been back on the front burner  – in force. Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan said on a radio show that the positions taken by talk radio were unfair and unbalanced and that “fairness” shouldn’t be too much to ask (listen to her on-air remarks) . When prompted by the host as to whether there would be Congressional hearings or legislation, the Senator said that it would certainly be something that Congress would consider.


Continue Reading Fairness Doctrine (Part 2) – Will It Return? And What’s Wrong With Fairness?

In several decisions released on Friday (here, here and here), the FCC fined Class A TV stations for not meeting their obligations under the Children’s Television Rules to notify their viewers about the location of their public file containing information about the educational and informational programming they broadcast directed to children

The FCC’s staff today issued an Order resolving 26 Groups of mutually exclusive FM applications submitted last year in the filing window for new noncommercial FM stations. We wrote about a previous order in August, processing a smaller group of such applicants.  In each of these groups, the Commission analyzed the coverage proposed by the applicants

On October 3, 2008, David Oxenford moderated a panel at the Digital Music Forum West in Los Angeles.  The panel, titled Digital Rights and Clearances, discussed what rights were necessary for the use of music by online digital services, in movie and video production, and for other purposes.  Panelist included,  Kevin Arnold, CEO, IODA;