The New York Times recently published an article about NBC’s owned and operated station in New York City acceptance of advertising for liquor.  While ads for beer and wine have been a staple on broadcast stations (though see our discussion of the limits on that advertising, here), ads for other alcoholic beverages ads have been less frequent.  Many broadcasters have for years believed that such ads were prohibited by the FCC or some other government agency.  In fact, alcohol ads have not been prohibited by law, but instead by voluntary actions of trade associations representing broadcasters and the alcoholic beverage industry .

Until the early 1980s, the National Association of Broadcasters had a voluntary code of conduct for broadcasters, suggesting good standards and practices for broadcasters: limiting some broadcast content while encouraging broadcasters to air other programming perceived to be in the public interest.  Among the conduct that the Code prohibited was the advertising of hard liquor. While the NAB Code was not mandatory for broadcasters, in filing many routine applications for new stations and for the acquisition of existing stations, the FCC in the past had requirements that the potential broadcasters explain how their programming would serve the public interest.  Most applicants would shorthand their compliance plans by simply promising to abide by the NAB code, in effect binding themselves to the code through those representations made to the FCC.  The Code was in place until the early 1980s, when the Department of Justice became concerned that code provisions suggesting maximum commercial loads and similar matters functioned as a restraint of trade in violation of the antitrust laws, and the NAB Code was abandoned.


Continue Reading Will You Drink to That? – Advertising Liquor on Broadcast Stations

The past few days have been eventful ones in the battle over Internet radio royalties.  Appeals from the decision of the Copyright Royalty Board decision (see our memo explaining that decision, as well as our coverage of the history of this case) were submitted by virtually all of the parties to the case.  In addition, the National Association of Broadcasters, which had not previously been a party to the case, filed a request to intervene in the appeal to argue that the CRB decision adversely affects its members.  Also in Court, a Motion for Stay of the decision was submitted, asking that the CRB decision be held in abeyance while the appeal progresses.  The "appeals" that were filed last week are simply notices that parties dispute the legal basis for the decision, and that they are asking that the Court review that decision.  These filings don’t contain any substantive arguments.  Those come later, once the Court sets up a briefing schedule and a date for oral arguments – all of which will occur much later in the year.  As the CRB decision goes into effect on July 15, absent a Stay, the appeal would have no effect on the obligations to begin to pay royalties at the new rates.

The Stay was filed by the large webcasters represented by DiMA, the smaller independent webcasters that I have represented in this case, and NPR.  To be granted a stay, the Court must look at a number of factors.  These include the likelihood that the party seeking the stay will be successful on appeal, the fact that irreparable harm will occur if the stay is not granted, the harm that would be caused by the grant of a stay, and the public interest benefits that would be advanced by the stay.  The Motion filed last week addressed these points.  It raised a number of substantive issues including the minimum per channel fee  set by the CRB decision, the lack of a percentage of revenue fee for smaller webcasters, and issues about the ability of NPR stations to track the metrics necessary to comply with the CRB decision.  The Motion raised the prospect of immediate and irreparable harm that would occur if the decision was not stayed, as several webcasters stated that enforcement of the new rates could put them out of business.


Continue Reading NAB Joins the Fray on Internet Radio – Appeals and a Request for Stay are Filed, And a Settlement Offer is Made to Noncommercial Webcasters