local radio ownership rules

With the holidays upon us and the end of the year fast approaching, the FCC took care of one piece of business required by statute as it released a Public Notice announcing the start of the 2022 Quadrennial Review of the FCC’s ownership rules.  The FCC is required, once every four years, to review their local ownership rules to see if they remain in the public interest.  The Notice starts the review required for this year even though the 2018 review remains pending with seemingly little likelihood of any action as long as the FCC remains politically divided (currently two Republicans and two Democrats with one open seat).

So, unless the 2018 review is decided and finds that some existing rule is no longer in the public interest and abolishes it, the just announced new review (the “Quad,” as those in DC communications regulatory circles call it) will look at the same issues as the last one did.  Ownership rules governing the limits on radio ownership in each market, largely unchanged since they were first adopted in 1996, are probably the issue that could potentially affect the largest number of broadcasters (see our articles here and here on proposals for change in the radio ownership rules).  Also under review will be issues including the Dual Network Rule, which prohibits combinations of two of the Top 4 TV networks, and a possible clarification of the Top 4 rule on local TV ownership.  The Top 4 rule generally prohibits combinations of two of the Top 4 rated TV stations in any television market.  In 2017, the FCC voted to allow parties to seek a waiver of that prohibition.  Such waiver requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  The proposal raised in the 2018 proceeding was to adopt some bright line tests as to when waivers would be permitted (e.g., allowing combinations of the two lowest rated stations if their audience share did not equal that of the first or second ranked station in the market).
Continue Reading FCC Starts 2022 Quadrennial Review Before the 2018 Review is Complete – Time for Another Look at Radio and TV Local Ownership Rules

In the last few weeks, a Democratic Senator and a Republican FCC Commissioner have both expressed support for the future of AM radio.  This is not a new topic, being the subject of speculation for at least the last 20 years as FM listening caught up to and surpassed the older service’s audience.  But, when considering worldwide trends, a real question arises as to whether this inquiry is too narrow, and whether the FCC should not be taking more steps to insure the continuation of a free, local broadcast service.

In the last decade, the FCC has considered and, in many cases adopted, various proposals to revitalize the AM service – including providing FM translators for AM stations (see our articles here and here) and permitting all-digital AM operations (see our article here).  Other proposals, including one for across-the-board power increases for AM stations (see our article here) and another to lessen the interference protection enjoyed by high powered “clear channel” AMs, which would allow lower power local AM stations to increase nighttime power (see our article here), have not been adopted.  What new issues are being raised by these recent expressions of support from DC regulators?
Continue Reading Washington Worries About AM Radio – Senator Markey and Commissioner Simington Weigh in on the Future of the Service While Overseas There are Thoughts of Ending Broadcasting Altogether

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has introduced a bill to repeal all broadcast ownership limitations including the radio and television local ownership rules (see the draft bill, the Local News and Broadcast Media Preservation Act, here, and the Senator’s press release, here).  As we have noted before (see, for instance, our article here), the FCC is currently considering changes to the radio ownership rules but the proposals, first advanced in late 2018, remain stalled in the current FCC seemingly because of its current political deadlock with two Republicans and two Democrats.  The current pending proposal at the FCC (see our summary here) is also considering allowing combinations of two of the top 4 TV stations in a market based on certain defined parameters (such combinations being allowed now only when justified based on an ill-defined case by case public interest analysis).  The Paul legislation would essentially pre-empt this review by abolishing the FCC’s ownership rules.  Of course, being introduced so late in the Congressional session with no other declared political support, the bill has little chance of becoming law in this session of Congress.

The Paul legislation is designed to allow broadcasters to compete with big tech companies that have seriously eroded the advertising and audience shares of broadcast stations over the last decade (see our article here).  According to Paul’s press release, his bill “would give local broadcasters and newspapers much-needed relief from outdated government restrictions that are currently threatening their ability to succeed in an evolving media environment.”  As the broadcast media is the only media subject to such ownership restrictions, many have argued that, for a truly level playing field in today’s media landscape, a significant relaxation of the rules is warranted.
Continue Reading Senator Rand Paul Introduces Bill to Repeal Broadcast Ownership Limits and Allow Joint Negotiations with Big Tech Companies

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.

  • Following up on its proposals from last summer to clean up radio technical rules that were inconsistent, outdated, or inaccurate,

With the Administration’s decision to renominate Jessica Rosenworcel for another term on the FCC and to select her as the permanent chair of the Commission, and the nomination of Gigi Sohn to fill the vacant seat on the FCC, and assuming both are confirmed by the Senate (though the Wall Street Journal noted that there

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 FCC’s Video Division of its Media Bureau has begun to release decisions on TV license renewal applications filed in

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 FCC this week reminded television broadcasters of their obligation to make televised emergency information accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Newspaper Broadcast Cross-Ownership Rule is Finally Dead – And More Ownership Rule Changes – Including for Radio – Are to be Considered

Last Friday, the FCC took two actions on broadcast ownership resulting from the recent Supreme Court decision (about which we wrote here) upholding changes to the ownership rules that the FCC adopted in 2017.  Those 2017 changes (summarized here) and any additional changes to the rules, including changes to the radio ownership rules that have not been substantially reviewed since 1996, have been held up by the 2019 decision of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  That Court reversed the FCC’s 2017 decision which had relaxed many ownership rules, notably including the abolition of the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule and some of the local television ownership restrictions.

The Third Circuit found that the FCC had done an inadequate job of assessing the impact of the 2017 changes (and past ownership changes) on the diversity of broadcast ownership.  Until such a historical review could be conducted, all FCC ownership proceedings were put on hold.  This hold was finally lifted by the Supreme Court’s decision reversing the Third Circuit and reinstating the 2017 FCC decision.  On Friday, the FCC issued an Order that formally reinstated the rules that had been overturned by the Third Circuit and also took some tentative steps toward restarting its regular review of broadcast ownership rules, including the local radio ownership rules that were largely unaffected by the 2017 FCC rule changes.  The FCC issued a Public Notice that asked for an update on comments they filed on the 2018 Quadrennial Review of the ownership rules (see our article here) in 2019.
Continue Reading FCC Implements Supreme Court Order Reinstating 2017 Ownership Rule Changes, and Asks for Updating of Record of 2018 Quadrennial Review

The broadcast trade press is full today with the news that NAB CEO Gordon Smith will be stepping back from that position at the end of the year, to be replaced by current COO (and former head of Government Relations) Curtis LeGeyt.  As many will remember, Smith took over the organization over a decade ago during a turbulent time for the industry.  At the time, TV stations faced increasing calls for other uses of the broadcast spectrum, and radio stations faced a possible performance royalty on their over-the-air broadcasts of sound recordings.  Since then, through all sorts of issues, there has been a general consensus in the industry that its leadership was in capable hands and meeting the issues as they arose.

But many issues remain for broadcasters – some of them ones that have never gone away completely.  The sound recording performance royalty for over-the-air broadcasting remains an issue, as do other music licensing issues calling for changes to the way that songwriters and composers are compensated, generally calling for higher payments or different compensation systems (see our articles here on the GMR controversy and here on the review of music industry antitrust consent decrees).  TV stations, while having gone through the incentive auction giving up significant parts of the TV broadcast spectrum, still face demands by wireless operators and others hungry for more spectrum to provide the many in-demand services necessary to meet the need for faster mobile services (see our articles here on C-Band redeployment and here on requests for a set aside of TV spectrum for unlicensed wireless users).  But competition from digital services may well be the biggest current issue facing broadcasters.
Continue Reading With a Change at the Top at the NAB as CEO Gordon Smith Plans His Departure – What are the Regulatory Issues That are Facing Broadcasters?