The FCC today released a Public Notice announcing that, after many false starts, it is making effective the new schedule of higher application fees on April 28. We wrote about the on-again, off-again effectiveness of these new fees which, this time, seem quite clearly to be about to become effective. The schedule of new
According to a recent article from the Des Moines Register, a station in Iowa recently fired two employees who, during what they thought was a break in programming, got into a heated, profanity-laden exchange which, luck would have it, ended up on the air as their mikes were live. Fearing an FCC fine, the…
In the last 5 days, the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC has held two oral arguments on appeals from decisions of the Copyright Royalty Board – one from the Board’s decision on Internet Radio Royalties and the other on the royalties applicable to satellite radio. The decisions were different in that, in the Internet Radio decision, the appellants (including the group known as the "Small Commercial Webcasters" that I represented in the case) challenged the Board’s decision, arguing that the rates that were arrived at were too high. In contrast, at the second argument, SoundExchange was the appellant, arguing that the Board’s decision set royalties for satellite radio that were too low. But, in both arguments, an overriding question was whether the Judges on the CRB were constitutionally appointed and thus whether any decisions of the Board had any validity. While the question was expected and specifically raised in the webcasting proceeding (see our post here when that issue was first raised), the discussion at the satellite radio argument was somewhat of a surprise, as the issue had not been raised by either party, and the Appeals Court judges were not even the same judges who had heard the Internet radio argument. Yet one of the Judges raised the issue, unprompted by any party, by asking if the Copyright Royalty Judges were properly appointed and indirectly asking if their decision would have any validity if the constitutional issue was found to exist.
Will the Court decide the constitutionality issue, and what would it mean? No one knows for sure. One of the issues raised by the Court in the Internet radio case was whether the issue had been raised in a timely fashion. In both cases, the possibility of requiring additional briefing on the issue was also raised by the Court, though no such briefing has been ordered – yet. Even if the Court was to find that the Board was not properly appointed, there are questions as to whether the existing decisions should nevertheless be allowed to stand, while blocking new decisions until a new appointment scheme is found. Alternatively, Congress might have to intervene to resolve the whole issue and, if it was to do that, would Congress simply ratify the current decision, or would there be new considerations that would affect any Congressional resolution? The issue raises many questions, and we’ll just have to wait to see what the resolution will be.…
We reported on the settlement under the Webcaster Settlement Act between the NAB and SoundExchange on Internet Radio Royalties. As provided in the Webcaster Settlement Act, that settlement has now been published in the Federal Register, and thus it is available for broadcasters who are streaming their signal on the Internet, or who are streaming other programming on the Internet, to claim coverage under that settlement. To do so, broadcasters who are already streaming must file a notice of Intent to Rely on this settlement, available here, with SoundExchange, by April 2, 2009 – thirty days after the Federal Register publication occurred. Broadcasters who are not now streaming, but who start in the future, must file the election notice within 30 days of the start of their streaming, or they will be bound by the rates established by the Copyright Royalty Board in their 2007 decision (see our post here). The publication sets out several other details of the settlement, set forth below.
The rates: The rates, which represent some savings under the CRB rate for the years between 2007 and 2011, are set forth below. These rates are "per performance", meaning that the rate is paid on a per song, per listener basis. If you play 10 songs in an hour, and each song is heard by 10 people, you have 100 performances. There are companies that provide services to track and report on performances. See our post, here, for details. There are also limited exceptions to the full "per performance" reporting, summarized below. The rates under this agreement are as follows:
2006 ……………………………….. $0.0008
2007 ……………………………….. 0.0011
2008 ……………………………….. 0.0014
2009 ……………………………….. 0.0015
2010 ……………………………….. 0.0016
2011 ……………………………….. 0.0017
2012 ……………………………….. 0.0020
2013 ……………………………….. 0.0022
2014 ……………………………….. 0.0023
2015 ……………………………….. 0.0025…
The FCC has released a public notice asking for comment on the procedures that it plans to use for a new FM auction now scheduled to be held in September. The channels to be included in that auction, and the proposed minimum bids for those channels, can be found on a list released by the Commission, here. Parties who are interested in bidding for any of these channels will be able to submit short form applications indicating the channels in which they are interested at some point to be determined in the future – probably late Spring or early Summer, so that the FCC can process those applications and receive the necessary upfront payments from parties interested in the auction in time for the auction itself to begin in September. Thus, parties who are interested in any of these channels should start their due diligence process now, and determine which channels may be of interest, and which channels can actually be built in such a way as to cover areas that an applicant may want to serve, so that they can be ready to file their applications, probably in May or June.
Applications, when filed, will not need to specify a specific transmitter site but, once the auction is over, winning bidders will need to quickly identify and file complete applications containing specific transmitter sites for which they have reasonable assurance. Thus, they should begin preparations for the auction now. Applicants who have identified a site can specify that site in their applications to protect it from subsequent applications. Thus, FM broadcasters should also anticipate a freeze on the filing of any FM technical applications at some point in late Spring in anticipation of the auction, in order to give applicants a stable technical situation so that they can identify usable transmitter sites. …
In the last two weeks, we have seen Capitol Hill rallies by the Free Radio Alliance, opposing what they term the “performance tax” on radio, and yesterday by the Music First Coalition, trying to persuade Congress to adopt a performance royalty on the use of sound recordings for the over-the-air signal of broadcast stations. We’ve written about the theories as to why a performance royalty on sound recordings should or should not be paid by broadcasters, but one question that now seems to be gaining more significance is the most practical of all questions – if a performance royalty is adopted, how would broadcasters pay for it?
The recording industry and some Congressional supporters have argued in the past that, if the royalty was adopted, stations could simply raise their advertising rates to get the money to pay for the royalty. While we’ve always questioned that assumption (as, if broadcasters could get more money for their advertising spots, why wouldn’t they be doing so now simply to maximize revenues?), that question is even harder to answer in today’s radio environment. With the current recession, radio is reporting sales declines of as much as 20% from the prior year. Layoffs are hitting stations in almost every market. In this environment, it is difficult to imagine how any significant royalty could be paid by broadcasters without eating into their fundamental ability to serve the public – and perhaps to threaten the very existence of many music-intensive stations. And the structure of the royalty, as proposed in the pending legislation, makes the question of affordability even harder to address.…
The FCC has an open proceeding pending to allow AM stations to use FM translators. As we have written, while this proceeding continues, the Commission is allowing AM stations to rebroadcast their signals on FM translators on under Special Temporary Authority. In a case decided today, the FCC made clear that this is only…
The FCC today issued two fines to stations who violated the FCC’s rule against airing phone calls for which permission had not been received before the call was either taped for broadcast or aired live. We’ve written about other fines for the violation of this rule, Section 73.1206, many times (see here, here, and here). What was interesting about the new cases is that they made clear that a station needs to get permission to record or broadcast the phone call even before the person at the other end of the line says "hello."
In one case, the station was broadcasting using a tape delay. The station placed a call to a local restaurant and, when the person at the other end of the line said hello, the station DJ informed the restaurant employee that he was being broadcast and asked if that was OK. The person responded "yep." But he changed his mind later in the call. The station claimed that, had the person not given permission, the tape delay would have allowed the call to be dumped but, as permission was given, the station continued to run with the conversation on the air. The FCC found that insufficient, as permission had not been received prior to the person saying hello. The second case was much more straightforward – a wake up call by the station to a randomly selected phone number. While the station immediately informed the person who answered the phone that the call was on the air – that did not happen until the recipient of the call had already said hello. In the first case, the fine was $6000 – in the second, $3200.…
While all the details are not out yet, the trade press has been filled with announcements this evening reporting that SoundExchange and the National Association of Broadcasters have reached a deal on Internet Radio Royalties. This deal will apparently settle the royalty dispute between broadcasters and SoundExchange for royalties covering 2006-2010 which arose from the 2007 Copyright Royalty Board decision, as well as the upcoming proceeding for the royalties for 2011-2015. According to the press reports, the royalties are slightly reduced from those decided by the CRB for the remainder of the current period, and continue to rise for the period 2011-2015 until they reach $.0025 per performance in 2015. According to the press release issued by the parties, there was also an agreement between the NAB and the four major labels that would waive the limits on the use of music by broadcasters that are imposed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
These limits, referred to as the performance complement, set out requirements on how many songs from the same artist or same CD can be played within given time periods which, if not observed, can disqualify a webcast from qualifying for the statutory license. If a webcaster cannot rely on the statutory license, it would have to negotiate with each copyright holder for the rights to use the music that it plays. The performance complement imposed requirements including:
- No preannouncing when a song will play
- No more than 3 songs in a row by the same artist
- Not more than 4 songs by same artist in a 3 hour period
- No more than 2 songs from same CD in a row
- Identify song, artist and CD title in writing on the website as the song is being played
It will be interesting to see the details of this agreement setting out what aspects of these rules are being waived.…
I just finished speaking on a panel at the Radio Ink Convergence ’09 conference in San Jose. My panel was called "The Distribution Dilemma: Opportunities, Partnership and Landmines." As the legal representative, my role was, of course, to talk about the landmines. And one occurred to me in the middle of the panel when a representative of Ibiquity, the HD Radio people, about one of the opportunities available for the multicast channels available in that system, where an FM radio operator can, on one FM station, send out two or three different digital signals. The particular opportunity that was discussed was the ability to bring in outside programmers to program the digital channels, specifically talking about a recent deal where a broadcaster had entered into a deal with a company that would be brokering a digital channel in major markets, and programming that station with a format directed to the Asian communities. Broadcasters are generally familiar with the fact that, when they broker their traditional analog broadcast station to a third party, the licensee remains responsible for the content that is delivered in that brokered programming – e.g. making sure that there are no payola, indecency, lottery or other legal issues that pop up in that brokered programming. Broadcasters need to remember that that same responsibility applies to multicast streams, whether they are on HD radio or on a multicast stream broadcast by a digital television station. These stream are over-the-air broadcast channels subject to all FCC programming rules.
Foreign language programming has traditionally presented programming issues for broadcasters. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were multiple cases where broadcasters actually lost licenses because there was illegal activity taking place in brokered programming. In these cases, the programming contained illegal content and the licensee had no way to monitor the content of the programs as the licensee had no one on staff who spoke the language in which the programming was produced. The FCC basically said that the licensee had the responsibility to be able to monitor all programming broadcast on its station – so they had abdicated their responsibility to keep the station in compliance with FCC rules by not knowing what was being said in the brokered programming.…