WileyonMedia

FCC Media Ownership Rule Changes Effective February 7, 2018; Comments Due March 9, 2018 on Proposals to Increase Broadcast Ownership Diversity

Posted in Broadcast Attribution, Broadcast Regulation, Ownership Rules

The FCC’s Order on Reconsideration (Order) adopting sweeping changes to the media ownership rules has been published in the Federal Register. This establishes February 7, 2018 as the effective date for all but one of the rule changes adopted in the Order. As previously explained, the Order (i) eliminates the 42-year-old newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule; (ii) eliminates the radio/television cross-ownership rule; (iii) loosens the existing rules governing the ownership of local television stations; (iv) adopts a presumptive waiver standard for certain so-called “embedded markets” under the local radio ownership rule; and (v) reverses the FCC’s earlier decision to treat television joint sales agreements (JSAs) as conferring attributable ownership interests. The only rule change not subject to the February 7 effective date is the elimination of the requirement to file television JSAs which, although deregulatory in nature, impacts paperwork obligations and therefore requires approval of the Office of Management and Budget. Federal Register publication also triggers the deadline for filing petitions for review of the Order.

The diversity-related Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that was adopted with the Order has also been published in the Federal Register. The NPRM initiates a proceeding to establish an incubator program to facilitate the entry of new and diverse voices in the broadcast industry. Its publication establishes March 9, 2018 as the deadline for comments, and April 9, 2018 for the deadline for reply comments, on the NPRM. Our summary of the NPRM is appended to our summary of the Order and is available here.

If you have questions or are interested in participating in these proceedings, please contact us.

FCC Actively Enforcing Broadcast EEO Rules

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Employment

FCCWhile the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may be modernizing many of its rules governing broadcasters, a recent, sizable fine serves as a reminder that the agency will enforce those laws on the books. In a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) issued earlier this week, the FCC proposed a $20,000 fine against a broadcaster for violation of its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules and would subject it to three years of special EEO reporting requirements. Given this action, broadcasters should pay particular attention to their EEO compliance programs. We are glad to assist with any questions you may have, or to discuss with you our online training options for hiring managers or others within your company.

The FCC’s recent NAL was based on the following apparent rule violations: Continue Reading

Elimination of Main Studio Rule Effective on January 8, 2018

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

On December 8, 2017, the Order eliminating the FCC’s main studio rule was published in the Federal Register. As a result, the rule change will be effective on January 8, 2018. Requirements associated with the main studio rule, such as having at least two employees (one manager and one staff) present on a full-time basis at the main studio during normal business hours, and the requirement that the main studio have program origination capability, will also be eliminated as of January 8.

Broadcasters will continue to be required to maintain a local or toll-free phone number that will allow local residents to contact the station. Stations that have not yet fully converted to the online public file are required to maintain portions of the public file that are not part of the online public file at a publicly accessible location within the station’s community of license. Stations with existing main studio rule waivers that permit them to maintain their public files at a location outside their community of license will be “grandfathered” and allowed to retain their public files at that location until completion of the station’s transition to the online public file. If a member of the public inquires, stations must promptly provide information regarding the location of the file within one business day of such request.

Comments Due December 29 on Proposals to Modernize Broadcast Ancillary/Supplementary Services Reporting and Local Public Notice Requirements

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on whether to modernize the requirements that broadcasters report annually on their provision of digital television (DTV) ancillary or supplementary services and provide local public notice of the filing of certain applications has been published in the Federal Register. As the FCC has announced, this sets deadlines of December 29, 2017 for comments and January 16, 2018 for reply comments. These proposals are a part of the FCC’s Media Modernization initiative, initially launched in May 2017.

Continue Reading

FCC Authorizes Voluntary Transition to ATSC 3.0

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Broadcast Technology

On November 20, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission released a Report & Order (Order) authorizing television broadcasters to use the Next Gen TV standard (a/k/a ATSC 3.0) on a voluntary, market-driven basis. The Order also includes a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that seeks further comment on three specific issues related to the ATSC 3.0 rules adopted in the companion Order. Comments are due 60 days after publication of the FNPRM in the Federal Register, and replies are due 30 days thereafter. The Next Gen TV rules adopted by the Order will become effective 30 days after Federal Register publication, except for a handful of rules that contain new or modified information collection requirements that require OMB approval. These few rules will become effective after OMB approval is obtained. The key points of the Order and FNPRM are summarized below.

Voluntary Use

The Order authorizes television broadcasters to transmit using the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard on a voluntary, market-driven basis. Accordingly, broadcasters are permitted, but not required, to transmit Next Gen TV signals provided they comply with all FCC rules applicable to such signals. Broadcasters could, therefore, opt to continue transmitting their signals solely in the currently authorized ATSC 1.0 transmission standard.

Local Simulcasting

The Order requires broadcasters choosing to implement Next Gen TV operations to air a local simulcast of the primary video programming stream of their ATSC 3.0 channel in the current ATSC 1.0 format. Next Gen TV broadcasters must partner with another station (i.e., a “host” station) in their local market to either (1) air an ATSC 3.0 channel at the host’s facility, while using their original facility to continue to provide an ATSC 1.0 simulcast channel, or (2) air an ATSC 1.0 simulcast channel at the host’s facility, while converting their original facility to the ATSC 3.0 standard in order to provide a 3.0 channel. The local simulcasting requirement only applies to the primary video programming stream aired by Next Gen TV broadcasters on their ATSC 3.0 channels. Broadcasters will have discretion to select the primary stream for purposes of local simulcasting, but the Order notes the FCC’s belief that broadcasters will elect the programming stream that contains network programming for network affiliates or the station’s most popular programming for non-network stations. Continue Reading

FTC Issues Enforcement Policy Statement Clarifying Verifiable Parental Consent Requirement for Audio Files

Posted in FTC

On October 20, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission issued an Enforcement Policy Statement regarding the applicability of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to the collection and use of children’s voice recordings, such as those collected when a child uses an internet-enabled device to perform a search via voice commands.  The Enforcement Statement clarifies that verifiable parental consent is not required for certain such recordings.

The FTC’s COPPA rule requires, among other things, operators of commercial websites or online services directed to children to provide notice of their information practices to parents and to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting a child’s personal information. As originally promulgated, the rule defined “personal information” to include data such as name, address, and social security number.  In 2013, the FTC amended its COPPA rule to add audio files containing a child’s voice to the definition of personal information.  Thus, covered operators must provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent before “collecting” a child’s voice recording.  (A covered operator is deemed to have “collected” personal information when it requests, prompts, or encourages a child to submit such information online.) Continue Reading

FCC Draft Order Would Authorize Voluntary Transition to ATSC 3.0

Posted in Broadcast Regulation, Broadcast Technology

On October 26, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission released a draft Report & Order (“Draft Order”) that would allow television broadcasters to use the Next Gen TV standard (a/k/a ATSC 3.0) on a voluntary, market-driven basis.  The Draft Order will be voted on at the Commission’s November 16th Open Meeting.  Below, we summarize the key points in the Draft Order.

Voluntary Use

The Draft Order would authorize broadcasters to transmit using the ATSC 3.0 transmission standard on a voluntary, market-driven basis.  Accordingly, broadcasters would be permitted, but not required, to transmit Next Gen TV signals.  Broadcasters could, therefore, opt to continue transmitting their signals solely in the currently authorized ATSC 1.0 transmission standard.

Local Simulcasting

In the Draft Order, the Commission states that it will require broadcasters choosing to implement Next Gen TV operations to air a local simulcast of the primary video programming stream of their ATSC 3.0 channel in the current ATSC 1.0 transmission standard.  Next Gen TV broadcasters must partner with another station (i.e., a “host” station) in their local market to either (1) air an ATSC 3.0 channel at the host’s facilities, while using their original facility to continue to provide an ATSC 1.0 simulcast channel, or (2) air an ATSC 1.0 simulcast channel at the host’s facility, while converting their original facility to the ATSC 3.0 standard in order to provide a 3.0 channel.  The local simulcasting requirement only applies to the primary video programming stream aired by Next Gen TV broadcasters on their ATSC 3.0 channels.  The Draft Order states that broadcasters will have discretion to select the primary stream for purposes of local simulcasting, but notes that the primary stream “generally contains network programming for network affiliates or the station’s most popular programming for non-network stations.”  Continue Reading

FCC to Consider Sweeping Changes to Media Ownership Rules

Posted in Broadcast Attribution, Broadcast Regulation

FCCFederal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing some of the most dramatic changes to the Commission’s media ownership rules in decades. At its November 16 Open Meeting, the agency will consider an Order on Reconsideration that would: (i) eliminate the 42-year-old newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rule; (ii) eliminate the radio/television cross-ownership rule; (iii) loosen the existing rules governing the ownership of local television stations (including attribution of joint sales agreements); and (iv) initiate a proceeding to establish an incubator program to facilitate the entry of new and diverse voices in the broadcast industry. If adopted, the Order on Reconsideration will represent a substantial departure from the Commission’s Second Report and Order in the 2010/2014 Quadrennial Ownership Review, which largely left the FCC’s existing rules intact.  The draft Order on Reconsideration can be found here.

FCC Votes to Eliminate Main Studio Rule

Posted in Broadcast Regulation

At its October 24, 2017 Open Meeting, the FCC voted to eliminate its 78-year-old main studio rule, requiring each radio and television station to maintain a main studio located in or near its community of license.  Commissioners voted along party lines, with Chairman Pai and Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr voting in favor of eliminating the rule and Commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel voting against.  The rule change will go into effect 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

The Report & Order (“R&O”) issued by the Commission did not deviate substantively from the draft Report and Order released on October 3, 2017. As expected, therefore, the R&O eliminates the main studio rule, under which a broadcast station is required to maintain a main studio either in its community of license, within its principal community contour, or within 25 miles from the reference coordinates of the center of the station’s community of license.  As justification for eliminating the rule, the R&O notes that “it is exceedingly rare for a member of the public to visit a station’s main studio, with community members overwhelmingly choosing instead to communicate with stations through more efficient means such as email, station websites, social media, mail, or telephone.”  The R&O also concludes that elimination of the main studio rule will not result in a decline in broadcasters’ local news coverage or community involvement because other rules, such as the requirement that broadcasters air programming responsive to local community issues, will “ensure that a station continues to serve its local community.”  The R&O also emphasizes the cost savings afforded by elimination of the main studio rule, which “will enable [broadcasters] to allocate greater resources to local programming and other matters such as community outreach, newsgathering, equipment upgrades, and attracting new talent and personnel.” Continue Reading