In a very busy week, 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 Federal Trade Commission and seven state Attorneys General announced a settlement with Google LLC and iHeart Media, Inc. over allegations that iHeart radio stations aired thousands of deceptive endorsements for Google Pixel 4 phones by radio personalities who had never used the phone.  The FTC’s complaint alleges that in 2019, Google hired iHeart and 11 other radio broadcast companies to have their on-air personalities record and broadcast endorsements of the Pixel 4 phone, but did not provide the on-air personalities with the phone that they were endorsing.  Google provided scripts for the on-air personalities to record, which included lines such as “It’s my favorite phone camera out there” and “I’ve been taking studio-like photos of everything,” despite these DJs never having used the phone.  The deceptive endorsements aired over 28,000 times across ten major markets from October 2019 to March 2020.  As part of the settlement, subject to approval by the courts, Google will pay approximately $9 million and iHeart will pay approximately $400,000 to the states that were part of the agreement.  The settlement also imposes substantial paperwork and administrative burdens by requiring both companies to submit annual compliance reports for a period of years (10 years in the case of iHeart), and create and retain financial and other records (in the case of iHeart, the records must be created for a period of ten years and retained for five years).
    • This case is a reminder that stations must ensure that their on-air talent have at least some familiarity with any product they endorse, particularly where on-air scripts suggest that they have actually used the product.  Stations should not assume that talent know the relevant rules – they more likely will just read whatever is handed to them without understanding the potential legal risk for the station, which, as demonstrated in this case, could be significant.

Continue Reading This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: November 26 to December 2 , 2022

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • The US House of Representatives, in a bipartisan vote, passed the MORE Act, a bill to decriminalize marijuana at the

The FCC is now accepting Form 175 applications for FM Auction 91 – an auction of 144 new FM channels across the country.  Applications are due between now and February 10.  We wrote about the auction here, and the list of channels to be auctioned is available here.   So, if you are interested in a new FM channel, act now!

While this auction is proceeding, in a recent case, the FCC addressed what to do with new FM channels that are not yet set for auction.  The FCC regularly receives petitions for rulemaking, seeking the addition of new FM channels.  Once allotted, these channels may sit on hold for a year or more before being listed for an auction like that now starting.  There are many such channels awaiting auction now, and not included in Auction 91.  During that period between auctions, owners of existing stations may find that these vacant allocations block upgrades or other changes that the owners may want to make to their existing stations.   Until recently, the existing licensee could suggest changes to the new allotments while they were sitting there waiting to be put out for auction – changes including restricting the transmitter site location for that new channel, changing the city of license for the allotment, downgrading it, or even deleting the channel altogether.  As set forth in the recent case, the policy has been to entertain these proposals, unless there was a showing that there was a party ready to file for the vacant allotment.  In the recent case, the FCC decided that no future proposals to change vacant allotments would be entertained, as the Commission believes that all channels have someone who is interested in the channel, or there will be an interested person when the next auction begins.  This policy will govern all future proceedings, with the limited exception that the FCC will entertain a change in frequency for a new allotment, as long as no other changes are made in that allotment (i.e. it stays at the same location and will continue to be able to operate with the same power).

Continue Reading As Applications for New FM Auction Are About to be Filed – FCC Clarifies Rules on Changes to New Allotments