In our recent summary of the Commission’s order on Digital Radio, we wrote about the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that raised specific proposals to adopt new rules regulating the public interest obligations of radio broadcasters.  These proposals included the possible requirements for a standardized disclosure form for a stations public service programs, limits on a station’s ability to originate programming from locations other than the station’s main studio, and possible limitations on the current ability of stations to operate without manned studios.  A recent Commission decision reminds television broadcasters that there is another proceeding – one six years old – that proposes many of the same restrictions on television broadcasters.  Does the recent mention of this proceeding that so closely parallels the recent radio proposals indicate that some action may soon be forthcoming on the TV proceeding?

The TV proceeding was mentioned in an FCC decision released last week rejecting Petitions to Deny that had been filed against a number of license renewal applications for television stations in Wisconsin and Illinois alleging that the stations had not adequately served the public interest through the broadcast of issue responsive programming, especially programming covering election issues.  In rejecting those Petitions, the FCC stated that its ability to second guess the editorial discretion of a licensee was limited by the First Amendment and by the Communications Act’s prohibition against broadcast censorship.  In this case, the FCC said that the showing made by the Petitioner was not sufficient to demonstrate that the stations had not served the public interest of their communities.  However, the decision noted that the Commission was considering quantitative standards for evaluating the public service of broadcast licensees, citing to the long-pending rulemaking proceeding, and implying that the evaluation of these licensees might have been at least somewhat different had these proposed standards been in place.Continue Reading Enhanced Public Interest Requirements for TV Too?

Last week’s announcement of the partnership between eBay and Bid4Spots and the impending full launch of Google’s service to sell online radio spots beg for FCC action to clarify how these services will be treated for lowest unit rate purposes. We have written about this issue before (see our note here), and the increasing number of online sales tools for broadcast advertising inventory highlights the issue. If advertisers can buy spots using these online systems on a single station, or if stations offer their spots to a particular advertiser at a set price for a specific class of spot, it would seem that these spots could have an effect on the station’s lowest unit rate if the spots sold through the online systems run during lowest unit rate periods (45 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.). For the peace of mind for all broadcasters, it would be worth the FCC clarifying the status of these services as we hurtle toward what will probably be the busiest political year ever.

In looking at some of these systems, it appears that some of these systems are premised on specific stations offering spots to advertisers on a cost-per-point basis, for specific dayparts as designated by the advertiser and agreed to by the station.  For instance Bid4Spots system advertises that it holds an auction to sell the spots on Thursday for the following week.  And it appears that spots must be sold by a station in specific dayparts on a non-preemeptible basis. For the week in which the spots are offered, the sale of such spots would appear to set a lowest unit rate for non-preemptible spots that run in the same time period. Continue Reading Will On-Line Spot Auctions Have an Impact on Lowest Unit Rate? – Only the FCC Knows For Sure