There have been many Washington developments for broadcasters in the last week – and while it was all occurring, our Blog was undergoing a makeover, so some of the articles that we published in the last week may have been missed.  Perhaps the biggest news was the confirmation and swearing in of the new FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler.  Last week, we wrote this article setting out the many legal issues of relevance to broadcasters that will be facing the new Chair.  Among the first issues that will be dealt with is the modification of the FCC’s limits on the foreign ownership of broadcast stations, which is scheduled for consideration by the FCC at their open meeting next Thursday.  We wrote about the issues in that proceeding here.

One of the last issues considered by Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn was the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the revitalization of the AM radio band.  We summarized the issues set out in that proceeding, and wrote in more detail about the proposal likely to have the biggest impact on AM broadcasters – a window for AM stations to seek FM translators.  That article also discussed how the FCC has seemingly decided to pull back from Mattoon waivers as part of that proceeding, and in a separate decision where the FCC decided that Mattoon waivers could not be used if the primary station is an FM.  We’ll write more about the rest of the AM revitalization proposals soon.  And, related to translators, we wrote about the extension of the last day for filing applications in the LPFM filing window to next week. 

As last week was Halloween, and also the 75th Anniversary of the broadcast of Orson Welles War of the Worlds, we wrote about the changing views on broadcast hoaxes, and what the FCC would do if the program was broadcast today.  Speaking of emergency broadcasts, the FCC yesterday issued a number of notices on fake emergency broadcasts.  We’ll write more about that issue shortly.
Continue Reading While Our Blog Was Getting A Makeover, Did You See Our Stories on the New FCC Chairman, Foreign Ownership of Broadcast Stations, AM Revitalization, Orson Welles and the Hoax Rule and More?

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.


Continue Reading Caution on Multicast Streams – Remember It’s Still Over-the-Air Broadcasting