broadcast deregulation

It is not every year that the FCC seriously asks broadcasters for suggestions as to what rules it should abolish or modify, but that is exactly what the FCC is doing in its Modernization of Media Regulation proceeding (about which we wrote here and here). Comments due the week after next, on July 5, and broadcasters should accept the invitation and suggest rules that are ripe for repeal or amendment. I recently spoke at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association’s annual convention and the broadcaster who chaired the association’s Federal legislative committee urged all broadcasters in attendance to register their ideas for reforms. That comment made me realize that many broadcasters may not be taking this invitation seriously.

The number of changes already made in broadcast regulations in the less than 6 months that Chairman Pai has headed the agency (e.g. reinstating the UHF discount, abolishing the requirements for letters from the public in the public file, allowing online recruitment to be the sole means of EEO wide dissemination of job openings, relaxing the location restrictions on FM translators for AM stations, relaxing the limitations on noncommercial fundraising, abolishing the obligation for noncommercial stations to report the social security numbers of their board members, the rescission of FCC enforcement actions for political violations, and the revocation of a policy statement against shared services agreements) demonstrate that this Commission is serious about deregulation. There has perhaps never been as real an opportunity as now to make your voice heard about the broadcast rules that should be relaxed as part of this proceeding. What rules should be examined by the FCC?
Continue Reading Modernization of Media Regulation – What Rule Changes Should Broadcasters be Requesting?

As expected, at its monthly open meeting yesterday, the FCC started two proceedings of particular importance to broadcasters. The first looks at the abolition of the main studio rules. The second asks for comments on all of the other rules affecting broadcasters and other media companies to see which are ripe for appeal. For the most part, the proposals as adopted mirrored the draft orders released for public review back at the end of April, which we summarized here.

The proposal to review all media rules – referred to as the Modernization of Media Regulation – will look at all media-related FCC rules with the idea of eliminating or modifying those that no longer make sense in the modern media environment. Only the multiple ownership rules, already under review in separate proceedings (see our posts here, here and here) are excluded from this review. Comment dates for proposals to change specific rules are due by July 5, with replies due August 4. The two Republican commissioners supported this proposal. Commissioner Clyburn, the FCC’s lone Democrat, dissented from the adoption of the Public Notice launching the inquiry, not necessarily because she is opposed to review of existing rules, but because she felt that the notice presupposes that the public interest can only be achieved by abolishing rules that limit industry operations. She suggests that many FCC rules remain important – including EEO rules, Biennial Ownership Reports, and certain rules governing access to cable programming. The Republican commissioners, on the other hand, point to the efficiencies that can be gained by abolishing rules that no longer make sense, or which require filings that serve no particular purpose (see Commissioner O’Rielly’s statement here). No doubt, these differing perceptions of the rules will be reflected in comments filed by various parties in this proceeding.
Continue Reading FCC Officially Starts Proceedings to Abolish Main Studio Rule and Review All Other Broadcast Rules

In his speech at the NAB Convention (available here), Chairman Pai promised to pursue a broadcast regulatory regime that made sense in today’s competitive media environment. He promised to move quickly to eliminate a number of the unnecessary broadcast rules, and specifically to repeal the main studio rule (see our articles here and here about the current requirements for the operation and staffing of the main studio).  Yesterday, the FCC took its first steps to quickly fulfill those promises, releasing two draft orders to be considered at its May 18 meeting, one to repeal the main studio rule and the second announcing the opening of a proceeding to review all of the other rules that govern broadcasters except the ownership rules that are already under consideration in other proceedings (see our posts here and here about some of the ownership rules already under review).

The draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to eliminate the main studio rules asks a number of questions seeking support for the FCC’s tentative conclusion that the elimination of the main studio rule is in the public interest.  The NPRM asks questions and seeks information including:

  • how much money the elimination of the main studio rule would save stations,
  • the public interest benefits that would result from any monetary savings (e.g. better programming),
  • information about how often the main studio is currently visited by community members and why they visit,
  • information about how community members communicate with broadcasters with complaints or suggestions about broadcast operations,
  • whether stations can still serve the issues faced by their communities without having a physical presence,
  • whether abolition of the main studio rules in any way abrogates the station’s obligation to serve its local community that would undermine the FCC’s obligations under Section 307(b) of the Communications Act to allocate stations to communities that need service,
  • how the elimination of the rule would work in connection with the requirement that radio stations move their public file online (e.g. should an online public file be a precondition of abolishing the studio or can the paper file be maintained somewhere else if the studio rule is abolished before next March when the online public file is mandatory for all stations),
  • whether to continue to require that stations have a local phone number accessible to residents of their community of license, and
  • specific inquiries as to how Class A TV stations would meet their obligations to air local programs if they have no main studio.

Assuming the FCC adopts the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the May 18 meeting, public comments on the proposal and the questions asked by the FCC will be 30 days after the NPRM is published in the Federal Register.  That would likely put comments in late June or early July, with reply comments 15 days later.
Continue Reading Making Good on Deregulation – FCC Proposes to Eliminate Main Studio Rules and Review All Other Broadcast Regulatory Requirements

We wrote about FCC Chairman Genachowski’s announcement of the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine as part of the FCC’s repeal of 83 media related rules.  Well, the full text of the repeal was released today, and the Fairness Doctrine really was the only real headline.  For broadcasters, all of the other deleted rules were even