Yesterday, the FCC released two public notices reflecting its attempts to assist broadcasters coping with the COVID-19 crisis. The first public notice deals with the attempts of several broadcasters to support their advertisers while at the same time filling advertising inventory holes that have been created by the cancellation of other advertising schedules. Broadcasters who
In a consent decree released earlier this week, the FCC fined the parties to a LMA for an FM radio station in Colorado $8000 because the FCC believed that the programmer paid too many of the licensee’s expenses directly. According to the decision, the programmer paid certain debts of the licensee directly, including…
An FCC Enforcement Bureau District Office today issued a Notice of Apparent Liability, proposing to fine an AM licensee $25,000 for not having a meaningful staff presence at the station’s main studio, and for not being able to produce a public inspection file when the FCC inspectors visited the station. The station…
$15,000 per station was the cost of a broadcast licensee’s failure to adequately supervise two stations of which he was the licensee, but which were operated pursuant to time brokerage agreements or LMAs. Like many stations in these tough economic times, this licensee decided to allow a third party to provide the bulk of the programming and retain the bulk of the sales revenues, in exchange for a payment. However, as the licensee remained the licensee, he was required to maintain and exercise control over the station’s operations, and maintain a meaningful staff presence at the station. In reviewing the operations of these stations, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau in recent decisions (here and here) concluded that the adequacy of that control was insufficient – providing a warning to other station licensees operating under LMA agreements that they must maintain operational control over the stations that they own.
The FCC has long said that a licensee must maintain a meaningful staff presence at a station, even if the station receives the vast majority of its programming from some other source – whether that is a network or programming provided under an LMA. Meaningful presence has required that at least two employees at the station be employed by the licensee, one of whom must be managerial and perform no services for the broker providing the programming under the LMA. This case makes clear that these required licensee employees must be physically present at the station’s main studio on a regular day to day basis – they cannot be located at some distant location supervising the station remotely or only periodically present at the main studio. Failure to have the station’s main studio manned by the required personnel in and of itself accounted for $7000 of the fine in this case.Continue Reading FCC Issues $15,000 Fines For Unauthorized Transfer of Control and Main Studio Staffing Violations for LMA Done Wrong
The Commission has announced the next in its series of media ownership workshops, this one to address financial issues facing the media industry. The workshop, part of the Commission’s 2010 quadrennial review of its ownership rules, will be held on January 12, 2010 at the FCC, and will address, in the FCC’s words: "the current financial…
More than 8 years ago, a group of television station owners (the Network Affiliated Stations Alliance or "NASA") who operated stations affiliated with the major television networks filed a request with the FCC, petitioning the Commission to rule that certain provisions in network affiliation agreements that limited the ability of stations to preempt network programming should be prohibited. While some of these issues were raised in the Commission’s localism proceeding, the parties have now reached an agreement to resolve many of the issues. The Commission last week released an order approving that agreement and clarifying some of the legal issues as to what provisions can be contained in network affiliation agreements. These clarifications not only help to clarify the clauses that can be contained in affiliation agreements, but also give broadcasters insights as to what kinds of provisions can be included in any agreement by which one party provides programming to a broadcast station licensee, including agreements such as LMAs.
The Commission’s Order sets out standards governing the network-station relationship that insure that the licensee maintains control over programming and other basic operational decisions of their station. From this basic principal, the following specifics were adopted:
- Station licensees have an unfettered right to reject network programming that they believe is contrary to the public interest, "unsatisfactory" or "unsuitable
- Stations can preempt network programming when the licensee thinks there is some other programming which is of greater national or local importance.
- If a preemption is done for one of these reasons, the affiliation agreement cannot impose monetary or non-monetary penalties or limit the amount of such preemptions
- Affiliation agreements cannot give networks the right to "option" time in the future unless they make a commitment to fill that time with programming. This is important in a multichannel digital context, as it prevents networks from tying up time on a second or third channel that they might or might not use.