Category Archives: First Amendment

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Narrow Supreme Court Decision Could Have Far-Reaching Implications for Public Access Channels

Posted in First Amendment
On its face, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Manhattan Community Access v. Halleck resolved a narrow question about whether a nonprofit public access channel operator was a state actor subject to First Amendment constraints.  But the Court’s opinion may have invited a more critical inquiry into the role that the government plays in regulating… Continue Reading

President Trump’s “S&!%hole” Remark Shines New Light on FCC’s Ambiguous Policy on Profanity/Indecency

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment
Broadcasters found themselves facing a conundrum on Thursday when President Trump, in a meeting with Congressional leaders about immigration, reportedly referred to Haiti and certain African countries as “shithole countries.”  24-hour cable networks immediately reported on the President’s comments, repeating the crass term and even including it on their lower-thirds.  Unlike their cable, newspaper, online… Continue Reading

Commission Affirms that its Authority to Enforce Broadcast Indecency Rules Is Alive and Well; Issues First-Ever Maximum Fine for Indecency

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment, Indecency, Program Content
On March 23, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a fine of $325,000 – the maximum amount possible – against the licensee of television station WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia for airing sexually explicit content during a newscast. According to the Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture, WDBJ aired a video clip that included less than… Continue Reading

Third Month of the Year Craziness Contest! Be Careful to Avoid Trademark Issues when Conducting Contests

Posted in Advertising Issues, Contests, First Amendment, Trademark
As college basketball play-off season and the Super Bowl approach, we thought it a good time to remind broadcasters about the trademark issues that often crop up in contests this time of year.  Contests related to March Madness and the Super Bowl are popular, but the use of the proper names of these sporting events… Continue Reading

UAS Takes Flight for Film Companies

Posted in Broadcast Technology, First Amendment, Privacy
Today, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) granted exemptions for six aerial photo and video production companies working in the movie and television industries to operate commercial unmanned aircraft systems (“UAS”) under specific conditions.  Under the current law, civil operation of UAS in U.S. airspace is banned unless the FAA grants an exemption under Section 333… Continue Reading

What to Expect From President Obama’s Executive Order on “Drone” Privacy

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Broadcast Technology, First Amendment, Privacy
Last week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor suggested Americans should be more concerned about their privacy being invaded by the spread of drones, stating that “frightening” changes in surveillance technology should encourage citizens to take a more active role in the privacy debate.  She said she’s particularly troubled by the potential for commercial and… Continue Reading

GAO Report Explains Sponsorship Identification Rules for Issue Ads Aired by Television and Radio Stations and Reaffirms Death of Fairness Doctrine

Posted in Advertising Issues, Broadcast Regulation, Copyright, First Amendment, GAO Reports, Political Broadcasting, Program Content, Spectrum
The General Accountability Office (“GAO”) has issued a report regarding the disclosure requirements that apply to, and broadcaster practices concerning, content that affects broadcasters’ interests and may be intended to influence Congress.  The GAO report responds to a request of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has supported legislation requiring radio stations to pay performance royalties… Continue Reading

What Broadcasters Don’t Know About Political Advertisers Can’t Hurt Them (At Least With the FCC)

Posted in Advertising Issues, Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment, Political Broadcasting
Broadcasters are not required to affirmatively investigate the identity of entities purchasing political advertising time, the FCC’s Media Bureau has reaffirmed.  In a letter dismissing complaints against two television stations, FCC political chief Bobby Baker stated that, “unless furnished with credible, unrefuted evidence that a sponsor is acting at the direction of a third party,… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Aggregate Contribution Limits

Posted in Advertising Issues, First Amendment
The Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission this week, striking down the federal aggregate contribution limits as unconstitutional under the First Amendment.  Importantly, the base contribution limits—that is, the amount an individual may contribute to a specific federal candidate, political party, or political action committee—remain unchanged and were not… Continue Reading

FCC Pulls Plug on Critical Information Needs Study

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment, Program Content
A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) statement issued late today indicates the agency will not just modify its Critical Information Needs (CIN) study but, rather, will not proceed with the study at all.  As explained in the statement:  “The FCC will not move forward with the Critical Information Needs study.  The Commission will reassess the best way… Continue Reading

FCC Chairman Wheeler Confirms: The FCC Will Not Regulate Broadcasters’ Speech, Through “Community Information Needs” Study or Otherwise

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment, Program Content
In response to a December 2013 letter sent by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Wheeler has publicly confirmed that the FCC “has no intention of regulating the political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters.”  Chairman Wheeler’s letter response and an accompanying statement were issued in response… Continue Reading

Drones for Commercial Use—Not Yet Legally Off the Ground

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Broadcast Technology, First Amendment, Privacy, Spectrum
Drones are making headlines.  Following the story of the off-duty Connecticut television station photographer who has now filed a federal lawsuit against the Harford police alleging civil rights violations because they stopped him from using his drone at the scene of a fatal car accident, I’m reflecting.  Back to the days when I was advocating… Continue Reading

CNN Wins Latest Round in Video Captioning Dispute, But More to Come

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, First Amendment, Online Video, Program Content
Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit noted CNN’s “protected right to report the news” in reversing a lower court decision that allowed a lawsuit involving CNN’s decision not to caption certain online video to move forward.  While the court acknowledged the import of preserving CNN’s ability to make independent editorial decisions… Continue Reading

Can Radio and Television Stations Run Ads for Online Gambling Operations? It Depends…

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Contests, First Amendment, Legislation
Today, advertisements for brick-and-mortar casinos provide significant revenue streams for broadcasters across the country.  Such was not always the case.  Just over a decade ago, the federal broadcast lottery statute – 18 U.S.C. §1304, as amended by 18 U.S.C. §1307 – prohibited the broadcast of casino-related advertisements by broadcasters located in a state that had… Continue Reading

Predicting the Media Landscape in 2014

Posted in Broadcast Attribution, Broadcast Regulation, Copyright, First Amendment, Privacy, Program Content
2013 proved to be a transformative year for the media industry.  We saw the M&A market heat up, with Sinclair, Gannett, Tribune, and Gray all growing their broadcast portfolios, while iconic names such as Belo, Fisher, and Allbritton either departed or entered into agreements to depart the broadcast field.  This past year saw digital rights… Continue Reading

Reporter’s Notebook: News Media Protests White House Photo Ban

Posted in First Amendment
In its early days, the Obama administration promised to be the most transparent administration ever.  Yet, among other failures to live up to that pledge, the White House increasingly has been barring press photographers from covering the president as he performs his official duties.  Instead, the administration hands out its own “official” White House photo… Continue Reading

Congress Considers a Federal Shield for Reporters

Posted in First Amendment
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the Free Flow of Information Act (S.987), a media “shield law” designed to protect journalists and their sources against prying prosecutors.  We’ve been here before.  The House passed such a bill on two different occasions, and the Senate moved legislation through the Senate Judiciary Committee only to… Continue Reading