In the wake of Commission’s rejection of hundreds of closed captioning waivers last year, many small television producers are now seeking new waivers for relief from the Commission’s television closed captioning rules. Last October, the Commission overturned nearly 300 "economically burdensome" captioning waivers on the grounds that the FCC had failed to apply the correct standard of review and
As we reported last week, the FCC has adopted a Report and Order establishing rules for the closed captioning of video programming delivered via Internet protocol (i.e., IP video), as required by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). DWT has now released an advisory with further details about the new…
This afternoon, the FCC released its long-anticipated Report and Order (R&O) setting forth the Commission’s new closed captioning rules for IP-delivered video programming, pursuant to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).
As we explained when the rules were first proposed in September, the CVAA directed the FCC to establish how and when certain…
The FCC has extended the comment deadline in two proceedings looking at imposing new public interest obligations on TV broadcasters (and potentially, at some point in the future, on radio stations as well). Both proceedings are an outgrowth of the FCC’s Future of Media Report, that suggested that broadcasters be made to be more…
In addition to the normal FCC deadlines for routine filings, January brings the deadline for comments in a number of FCC proceedings, and a filing window for new FM applications. For TV stations, the Commission recently extended to January 17 the Reply Comment deadline on its proposals (summarized here) for an online public inspection file. …
The FCC this week adopted its rules implementing the CALM Act to address the public perception that commercials are too loud – louder than the programming which they accompany. Congress passed a law last year requiring that the FCC address the issue, and this week’s order adopts these implementing rules which will go into effect on December 13, 2012 (see our articles on the passage of the Act here, and on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in this proceeding here). The rules adopted by the FCC allow television stations and MVPDs (multichannel video programming distributors – cable and satellite TV companies) to meet the requirements of the Act by relying on the A/85 Recommended Practice, a standard adopted by the ATSC (the Advanced Television Standards Committee) setting out a process by which these TV providers can assure that commercials that they insert into program streams are not louder than the programs that they accompany. The rules also allow a safe harbor by which stations and MVPDs can comply with the Act in connection with “embedded commercials”, i.e. commercials that are sent to the station or system by a network or other program supplier.
The specific requirements for compliance with the new rules depend on whether the advertisements that are being broadcast are originated by the station or system, or whether they come embedded from some third-party program provider. For commercial insertions by the station or MVPD, compliance is assumed if they install the equipment required by A/85, use it in connection with their insertions, and maintain and repair it as necessary to keep it in good working order. For embedded commercials, stations can run all the programming through some sort of real time processing to ensure that the audio loudness is uniform. However the Commission was concerned would audio processing would degrade the audio quality of the programming provided by third parties. Thus, the Commission offered an alternative safe harbor with respect to embedded advertising. To comply with the safe harbor, stations and systems would either:
- Rely on widely available certifications from networks and other program suppliers that they have complied with the standards necessary to assure that the commercials are no louder than the programming in which they are embedded, or
- The stations and systems will need to perform “spot checks” on programming for which they have obtained no certification. Spot checks are done as follows:
- Large stations (with over $14 million in annual 2011 revenue based on BIA Media Access Pro information) and very large MVPDs ( those with over 10 million subscribers) needs to annually spot check 100% of their non-certified programming. Large MVPDs (those with between 500,000 and 10 million subscribers) need to spot check 50% of their programming. Small stations and systems are exempt from regular spot check obligations
- The spot check is a once-a-year obligation, requiring the station or system to do 24 hours of monitoring within a 7 day period, including at least one complete program from each non-certified program supplier, to ensure that the programs comply with the A/85 standards
- Spot checks will phase out over 2 years as more and more programming is brought into compliance
- If a spot check reveals an issue, the station or system needs to notify the program provider and the FCC, and do another spot check of the non-compliant programming within 30 days . If the programming continues to be noncompliant, then the programming is outside the safe harbor (meaning that, if a station or system continues to run it, they can be subject to fines)
The Order also set out additional details about what kinds of programming are subject to the rules, the complaint process for those who believe that stations or systems are not complying with their obligations, and waivers for small stations and systems. These matters are discussed below.Continue Reading A Summary of the FCC Rules Implementing the CALM Act to Regulate Loud TV Commercials
The FCC’s proposal to replace the never-implemented Form 355 with a new form to document the public interest programming of television broadcasters (to eventually be expanded to include radio operators) was published in today’s Federal Register – setting January 17 as the comment date for those interested in telling the FCC what they think of…
While the FCC is entertaining comments on its proposal to move the public inspection file for broadcast television stations online (see our article here), the existing physical public files of several New York area broadcasters came under examination by the New York Times, according to an article in Sunday’s paper. The article seemed to both make fun of the contents of the required public file, while at the same time noting that the people at several stations contacted by the reporter seemed to be unaware of the Commission’s requirements that the file be made available immediately to anyone who visits a station and asks to see it, and that requiring appointments is not an option. We’ve written in the past about stations that received substantial fines for requiring a visitor to make an appointment to see a station’s files (see, one case where a commercial TV station was fined $10,000, and another where a noncommercial FM was fined $8000 for a similar violation). If the NY Times article is accurate, stations need to reexamine their policies and be sure that those dealing with the public know of the location of the file and the fact that it must be made available upon request – no questions asked. For more information about the public file requirements, see our Guide to the Basics of the Public Inspection File for Commercial Stations, here.
The second aspect of the report, poking some fun at some of the weird comments from the public found in the file, reinforces some of what I have been told by broadcasters. At a broadcaster meeting last week, I was told stories of station public files that have expanded exponentially since the FCC added a requirement that the file contain emails from the public, as well as letters. Broadcasters report that the letters from the public can now often take up several drawers of a file cabinet, while the remainder of the file fits in a single drawer. While the Commission has tentatively concluded that these letters would not be required to be included in the electronic online file, the recent rulemaking proposal did suggest that the letters be retained at the station, and that perhaps summaries of the written comments be made part of the online file. In addition, comments were requested as to whether social media posts about station operations be kept in some fashion – even though sites like Facebook and Twitter, by their very nature, keep most of what it posted on their sites for the public to view (see our summary of the proposals here). Broadcasters at my meeting last week were very concerned about the volume of paper that would generate, and the need for manpower to review Twitter feeds and Facebook posts almost around the clock to see if any needed to be placed into the file as they related to the station operations.Continue Reading What the NY Times Article on the Broadcast Public Inspection File Says About the FCC’s Public File Requirements
When the FCC last month started a new proceeding to mandate an online public file for television stations, the Commission promised to soon initiate another proceeding to look into the need for a new form to document the public interest programming that TV stations provide. The FCC today fulfilled that promise, and issued a Notice of Inquiry ("NOI") to start the process of adopting a new form for TV stations to complete to report on various categories of "public interest programming," however that might be defined. In 2007, the FCC had adopted Form 355 to accomplish that task. But, after an outcry from stations about the paperwork burden that the form would impose, the FCC never submitted it to the Office of Management and Budget for approval under the Paperwork Reduction Act, and thus the form never became effective. The adoption of the Form 355 was vacated last month in the online public file proceeding. But the Commission now proposes its return – in some fashion. So what does the Commission now propose to require from TV stations to document their public interest programming?
First, the FCC asks a series of questions about how such a form should be structured, and how the information should be collected to be meaningful for those that want to analyze it, but not overly burdensome for the TV stations. The Commission seems to conclude that the form is necessary – not even asking questions on that basic issue of whether to adopt a standardized form. The NOI states:
We continue to believe that the use of a standardized disclosure form will facilitate access to information on how licensees are serving the public interest and will allow the public to play a more active role in helping a station meet its obligation to provide programming that addresses the community’s needs and interests
The Commission then goes on to discuss the Quarterly Programs Issues lists ("QPIs") that are currently required to be placed in a station’s public file every three months – describing the issues that station management sees as important in the community and the programs that the station has broadcast to address those issues (see our most recent advisory on this obligation, here). The Commission states that these quarterly reports should be replaced, as broadcasters have been uneven in their recordkeeping of such lists. Of course, that may be because the FCC has never proscribed any specific form for these reports, nor specifically said what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in connection with such reports. Seemingly, replacing one form with another (albeit a more complete, detailed new form) may well accomplish nothing if the new report does not have clear and unambiguous instructions – something never adopted for the Quarterly Reports.Continue Reading FCC Proposes New Form Requiring TV Broadcasters to Document their Public Interest Programming
The full text of the FCC’s Order overturning its 2007 decision on online public inspection files for TV broadcasters and the adoption of the Form 355 "enhanced disclosure form" has now been released. This order, adopted at the FCC’s open meeting this week (held on October 27, 2011, which we wrote about here), also contains a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking again suggesting an online public file, but this time it would be one hosted by the FCC. In reading the full text, more details of the FCC’s proposal become clear. As set forth below, the Order suggests everything from a future application of these rules to radio once the bugs have been worked out, to an examination of whether a station needs to save Facebook posts and other social media comments in the same way that it preserves letters from the public and emails about station operations, to a proposal for stations to document in their files information about all "pay for play" sponsorships. Comments on these proposals, and the others summarized below, which include a request for detailed information about the costs of compliance with the proposals, are due 30 days from when the order is published in the Federal Register, with Reply Comments due only 15 days thereafter. The FCC, after sitting on these obligations for almost 5 years, now seems to be ready to move quickly.
In reaching it’s decision, the order first discusses some proposals that it was rejecting – some for the time being. For radio broadcasters, the most important of the rejected thoughts was the extension of this rule to radio. The Commission noted that there were proposals pending and ripe for action as part of the Localism proceeding (which we summarized here), to extend the online public file obligations to radio. In this week’s order, the FCC decided that it was not yet ready to apply these rules to radio. The Commission noted that there might need to be differences in the rules for radio (implying that, at least partially, there might be resource issues making it difficult for radio broadcasters to comply with these rules), and also finding that it would be better to see how an online file works for TV before extending the rule to radio. But, from the statements made in the Order, there is no question but that, at some point in the future, some form of the obligations that are proposed for TV will also be proposed for radio broadcasters.
Also, it is important to note that the FCC’s Localism proceeding is not dead yet. While this week’s Order stems from the FCC’s Future of Media Report (renamed the Report on the Information Needs of Communities), and that report recommended that the Localism proceeding be terminated, this Order did not do that. The Commission notes its plans to start a new proceeding designed to force broadcasters to complete a more comprehensive report on their public interest programming. That proceeding may be where the looming Localism proposals are finally dealt with. Statements at the meeting and passages in the Order make clear that the examination of the public interest obligations for broadcasters will begin with a Notice of Inquiry, which is a most preliminary stage of an FCC proceeding (which would be followed by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking after the inquiry comments are reviewed) and then an Order. So final resolution of these issues seem to be far down the road. If that is the case, will the Localism proposals stay on the table until the Order in this new proceeding is adopted? It is certainly unclear from the Commission’s statements thus far.Continue Reading Text of Online Public File Order Released – Details of What the FCC is Considering, and Suggestion that Radio May Be Next