revision of communications act of 1934

Last month, we wrote about the FCC issues facing broadcasters in 2015.  Today, we’ll look at decisions that may come in other venues that could affect broadcasters and media companies in the remaining 11 months of 2015.  There are many actions in courts, at government agencies and in Congress that could change law or policy and affect operations of media companies in some way.  These include not just changes in communications policies directly, but also changes in copyright and other laws that could have a significant impact on the operations of all sorts of companies operating in the media world.

Starting with FCC issues in the courts, there are two significant proceedings that could affect FCC issues. First, there is the appeal of the FCC’s order setting the rules for the incentive auction.  Both Sinclair and the NAB have filed appeals that have been consolidated into a single proceeding, and briefing on the appeals has been completed, with oral arguments to follow in March.  The appeals challenge both the computation of allowable interference after the auction and more fundamental issues as to whether an auction is even permissible when there is only one station in a market looking to give up their channel.     The Court has agreed to expedite the appeal so as to not unduly delay the auction, so we should see a decision by mid-year that could tell us whether or not the incentive auction will take place on time in early 2016.
Continue Reading What Washington Has in Store for Broadcasters and Digital Media Companies in 2015 – Part 2 – Court Cases, Congressional Communications and Copyright Reform, and Other Issues

We recently wrote about FCC issues that will be facing broadcasters in this new year.  While broadcasters will no doubt be busy keeping track of what the FCC is up to, they also need to have their eyes on other government agencies, as there are numerous issues that may come from Congress and the other regulatory agencies in DC that could affect their bottom lines.  So, with a watchful eye on the FCC for the issues we wrote about earlier in the month, what other issues should broadcasters be watching for from all of the other regulatory power centers in DC? 

While this is an election year, and that makes many big pieces of legislation unlikely, the discussions that occur in 2014 on these issues may pave the way for action late in the year, or in 2015 after the new Congress is in place and before the Presidential election in 2016 commands everyone’s attention.  Here are some of the issues of interest to broadcasters likely to be on the DC agenda in 2014:
Continue Reading What’s Up in Washington For Broadcasters in 2014? — Part 2, Issues beyond the FCC Including Ad Taxes, Music Royalties, Privacy Reforms, and More

In a very cryptic announcement, the Chairs of the House and Senate commerce committees, and the Chairs of the subcommittees dealing specifically with communications matters, have announced that they are beginning the process of rewriting the Communications Act of 1934, the Act which governs regulation of broadcasters as well as telecommunications, satellite and mobile communications entities.  The announcement, from Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Senator John F. Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and Rep. Rick Boucher, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, merely states that they will "will invite stakeholders to participate in a series of bipartisan, issue-focused meetings beginning in June" to address the issues that would be involved in such a rewrite.  The announcement then says that more details will be forthcoming.

What does this mean for broadcasters?  At this point, until more details are released, the issues to be addressed are anyone’s guess.  Much has been made in recent years of the changing nature of the media and communications industry, particularly in light of the development of the Internet.  In a recent decision, the Courts have said that the FCC is limited in its ability to regulate the provision of Internet services, and the initial impetus for this rewrite proposal may well come from that decision.  But these processes, once begun, often take on a life of their own, with new proposals covering issues not necessarily anticipated at the outset of the proceeding arising as the process goes on.  While there are minor amendments to the Act almost every year, the last comprehensive rewrite of the Act took place in 1996.  There, while much of the debate focused on telecommunications issues (which will likely be the case here as well, as there are far more dollars at stake than in the broadcast world), broadcast ownership reform emerged at the last minute – abolishing numerical caps on television ownership and all caps on radio ownership nationally, and raising the local limits on radio ownership from the 4 stations (2 AMs and 2 FMs) previously allowed to be owned in one market by any party, to the current cap allowing ownership of as many as 8 radio stations in the largest markets.Continue Reading Congress to Rewrite the Communications Act – What Could It Mean For Broadcasters?