A Regulatory Play-By-Play Of Intel’s Super Bowl Drone Show

Posted in Broadcast Technology

Originally posted on WileyConnect, the Internet of Things Blog by Wiley Rein LLP.

It’s time to answer the most important question on everyone’s mind after Super Bowl LI: what type of regulatory approvals and deviations were required to enable Intel’s massive display of 300 choreographed unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that kicked off Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show?

Image source: https://www.drones.nl/media/wysiwyg/images/1486361360-super-bowl-2017-lady-gaga-drones.jpg

The halftime show begins with Gaga singing a mashup of “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land” while standing on the open roof of Houston’s NRG Stadium.  The camera pans out to reveal a sky of 300 UAS shimmering like stars behind the headliner.  Still swirling around the sky, the white lights of the UAS fade to red and blue.  The aircraft then shift to form the image of an American flag to accompany the patriotic number.  After concluding with a line from the Pledge of Allegiance, Lady Gaga appears to jump into the stadium, and the sky fades to black.  At the end of the performance, the drones return to form the logos for Pepsi (the sponsor of the halftime show) and Intel. Continue Reading

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to be repacked)

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Spectrum

MH900212043The FCC’s confidential letters to television stations that did not submit successful bids to relinquish their spectrum in the reverse auction could arrive in broadcaster mailboxes any day now.  For some stations, this letter will confirm that it’s business as usual, and that they will continue to operate on the same channel after the auction.  But for more than 1,000 stations, the letters could represent the beginning of a long, challenging process not only to seamlessly move to a new channel, but to do so in a manner that minimizes out-of-pocket costs and maximizes reimbursement from the FCC.   Broadcasters should have a head start of 6-8 weeks before the FCC issues its Closing and Reassignment Public Notice, and it would be helpful to use that time wisely. 

Perhaps the most important two things a station owner can do upon receiving its letters are organize and prioritize.  For a single station owner, this will be fairly simple: review the materials from the FCC and contact your consulting engineer and/or attorney to begin the process.  For a large group owner, however, it will be helpful to asses: (i) how many stations you have in each transition phase; (ii) the nature of your channel moves; and (iii) any commonalities among your stations and their repacking efforts.  With this information, your can prioritize.  Engineers, equipment manufacturers, and attorneys are going to be flooded with calls and e-mails, and even their most important clients (e.g., you) may need to wait in a queue.  You can help these professionals help you by identifying the stations that you need them to focus on first based on your organization and your business priorities. Continue Reading

So Your Station Submitted a Successful Incentive Auction Bid, Now What?

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Spectrum

MM900236467Now that television stations can openly discuss the results of their participation in the Incentive Auction, it is an appropriate time for all television stations to assess their market position and think about what comes next.  In this space, we will discuss how stations with various auction outcomes should approach their post-auction transaction.  Today, we begin with stations that submitted a successful bid to relinquish their spectrum.

The first two questions on the minds of many broadcasters that submitted winning bids are: (1) when will I receive my money; and (2) how much should I publicly say about my auction results?

Winning reverse auction bidders will receive their proceeds from the FCC only after the Commission issues licenses to winning forward auction bidders.  The earliest that the FCC can issue those licenses is approximately one month (and likely 2-3 months) after it releases the Closing and Reassignment Public Notice.  We estimate that the FCC will start releasing payments to broadcasters in late Q2 or early Q3 2017, although those dates are subject to change depending on the length of the forward auction.  If the FCC does not process all of the forward auction licenses at one time, it will make payments to broadcasters on a rolling basis.  The FCC will issue a public notice explaining how it will distribute auction proceeds and the steps each winning station must take to receive those proceeds. The person responsible for managing the receipt of auction proceeds must create a username and password in the new CORES. That website is found here: https://apps.fcc.gov/cores/userLogin.do. Continue Reading

Commission Releases Circulation Version of ATSC 3.0 NPRM

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Broadcast Technology

On February 2, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission released the proposed text of a Notice of Proposed ATSC 3Rulemaking (Circulation NPRM) in the Next Gen TV (a/k/a ATSC 3.0) proceeding in which the agency proposes to authorize television broadcasters to use the Next Gen TV transmission standard on a voluntary, market-driven basis, while continuing to deliver current-generation DTV service to viewers using the ATSC 1.0 standard. The text was released at the same time that it is being circulated to the FCC Commissioners and is on the agenda for the Commission’s February 23rd Open Meeting. Between now and February 23rd, the Commissioners will review and study the item, and changes may be made before it is officially adopted and released for public comment. The Circulation NPRM is part of a pilot program announced by Chairman Pai that is designed to provide more transparency at the Commission. If successful, the program will become Commission practice. Below, we summarize some of the key tentative conclusions and questions asked by the Commission in the Circulation NPRM. Continue Reading

AM Revitalization Second Report and Order Would Relax Siting Rules for FM Translators

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

MM900234672Yesterday, the FCC released the proposed text for the Second Report and Order in the Revitalization of the AM Radio Service proceeding. This text was released at the same time that it is being circulated to commissioners, as part of new Chairman Pai’s pilot program to increase transparency at the Commission.

The proposed Second Report and Order would adopt one of the proposals from the 2015 AM Revitalization Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making (FNPRM): specifically, to relax the current rule that governs siting for FM fill-in translators that rebroadcast an AM broadcast station. In the 2015 FNPRM, the Commission proposed to provide for more flexible siting of FM cross-service fill-in translators by permitting the use of an FM translator to rebroadcast an AM radio station as its primary station where the FM translator’s coverage contour is contained within the greater of the 2 mV/m daytime contour of the AM station or a 25-mile radius centered at the AM transmitter site. In no event may a translator’s 1 mV/m coverage contour extend beyond a 40-mile radius centered at the AM transmitter site.

The Commission received “overwhelming support” for this proposal, and is proposing to adopt it with one change, which is to remove the 40-mile limitation on translator siting. Several commenters argued that the 40-mile restriction would be unduly restrictive. In the proposed Order currently on circulation, the Commission agrees. Further, the Commission does not think that the restriction is necessary to protect against the use of FM translators to extend an AM station’s primary service area, given that the 2mV/m contour, which constitutes the primary service area, is included as a limit to translator coverage in the proposed rule.

If adopted, the new rule would provide that an FM translator that rebroadcasts an AM broadcast station must be “contained within the greater of either the 2mV/m daytime contour of the AM station or a 25-mile (40 km) radius centered at the AM transmitter site. The protected contour for an FM translator station is its predicted 1 mV/m contour.” Continue Reading

Chairman Pai Attempts to Deliver on Transparency Promise

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced a pilot program designed to provide more transparency at the Commission.  Under the pilot program, the Commission will release the text of agenda items that will be voted on at upcoming Commission meetings “well in advance” of the meeting.  This is a shift from the current practice, where the Commission releases the text of items only after they have been voted on.  Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly had accused former Chairman Tom Wheeler of selectively leaking information about items on circulation among the commissioners to shape public opinion before those items became public.  If successful, the program will become Commission practice.  Chairman Pai touted the procedural shift as a mechanism that will allow “average Americans” the same ability to see the contents of FCC proposals and orders as was previously reserved for “[l]obbyists with inside-the-Beltway connections.” 

The first two items released under this program were a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks comment on television broadcasters’ use of ATSC 3.0 and a Report and Order regarding AM revitalization.  Both are on the agenda for the FCC’s next Open Commission Meeting, which will be February 23, 2017.    



FCC Eliminates Public File Requirement for Letters/Emails from the Public

Posted in Broadcast Attribution

filingcabinetOn January 31, 2017, the newly Republican-majority Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to eliminate the requirement that commercial TV and radio stations retain in their public files copies of letters and emails from the public. (Non-commercial educational broadcasters are not required to do so.) Chairman Pai noted in a Statement accompanying the Report and Order that the elimination of the rule will “reduce the regulatory burdens on commercial broadcasters…without adversely affecting the general public.” In ditching the requirement, the Commission pointed to evidence in the record from broadcasters affirming that the public rarely, if ever, asks to view the public file. The Commission also recognized that “the volume of commentary on social media sites about a station’s performance is likely to far exceed the number of letters and emails a station receives” and, unlike the correspondence file, “these Internet postings are readily available online where they can be viewed by interested parties.” Moreover, members of the public without internet access will still be able to correspond with stations via mail. Continue Reading

Wiley Rein Encourages FCC to Ease Anti-Collusion Rules

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

FCCThis morning, on behalf of Wiley Rein, I filed a letter encouraging the FCC to issue a formal declaration that, with the final stage rule satisfied, no communications by broadcasters about the reverse auction can violate the Commission’s prohibition on certain auction-related communications.  The Incentive Auction has handcuffed the broadcast television industry in many respects for over a year now, and the continued prohibition on communications serves only to inhibit important business discussions as broadcasters prepare for the repack and post-auction operations.

You can view our letter here.

FCC Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly Rebuke NCE FRN Decision

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

On January 4, 2017, the FCC’s Thumb Downtwo Republican Commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, issued a scathing statement against the Media Bureau’s decision, issued that same day, to deny petitions for reconsideration regarding FCC Registration Number (FRN) reporting requirements for non-commercial educational (NCE) broadcasters. Those requirements, imposed in January 2016 (the 2016 Order), oblige board members of NCE stations to provide a unique FRN on the station’s biennial ownership reports (FCC Form 323-E). Board members must submit their full Social Security Numbers to the Commission via an online database in order to receive an FRN. In May, American Public Media Group and others filed petitions seeking reconsideration of the FRN requirement. The Media Bureau, on delegated authority, dismissed the petitions, reasoning that they merely repeated arguments the Commission had already heard and considered.

In the joint statement, Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly called the new NCE reporting requirements “needless,” “unnecessary,” and “pointless,” and highlighted the fact that NCE broadcasters from at least two-thirds of the states sought relief from the regulation. The Commissioners also criticized the Bureau’s denial as unilateral and issued in such a manner as to bypass the Commissioners—an “especially unfortunate” procedural action and “just another example showing why the Commission’s use of delegated authority needs to be fixed.”

Noting that the majority of Commissioners support neither the Bureau’s decision to deny the petitions nor the 2016 Order, Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly invited NCE broadcasters “to file an application for review so that the newly constituted Commission will have an opportunity to revisit this matter.”