Archive for the ‘FCC’ Category

    A Handy Road Map for Your NAB Show Transmitter Trek

    The spring NAB Show in Las Vegas provides the best opportunity to get an up close look at all the high-dollar capital items you may need in the upcoming year.

    FCC Auction Results Reveal No Participation From Verizon

    NAB concerned about effects on FM broadcast

    Big Mobile Operators to Start Testing 3.5 GHz CBRS Technology

    The commission finalized rules for spectrum sharing in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service band in April 2016

    FCC to Eliminate Need for Social Security Numbers from Board Members of Noncommercial Licensees for Biennial Ownership Report

    Last week, we wrote about two of the three broadcast items to be considered at the FCC meeting on April 20. We wrote here about the draft order to restore the UHF discount, and here about the relaxation of the restrictions on fund-raising for third parties by noncommercial stations. The third item, also related to noncommercial licensees, is the resolution of the long-simmering dispute about whether or not to require that those individuals with attributable interests in noncommercial broadcast stations – officers and board members – to provide their Social Security Numbers or other personal information to the FCC to obtain an FCC Registration Number – an FRN .

    New Congressional Attempts to Impose a Performance Royalty for Sound Recordings on Broadcast Radio, Including the PROMOTE Act – What Do They…

    In the last month, there have been two bills introduced in the US House of Representatives seeking to impose a performance royalty for sound recordings on broadcast radio stations in the US. The bill introduced yesterday, The PROMOTE Act (standing for the Performance Royalty Owners of Music Opportunity to Earn Act – whatever that may mean, can be found here ), seems to have garnered more attention, perhaps as it was promoted by its principal sponsor, California Congressman Darrell Issa, as giving performing artists the right to decide whether or not their music is played by radio stations. In fact, it does not do that, instead merely setting up a royalty system similar to that in place for Internet radio operators, allowing broadcasters to play music only if they pay royalties on “identical” rates and terms as do webcasters. The PROMOTE Act proposes to add to the Copyright Act’s Section 106 enumeration of the “exclusive rights” given to copyright holders a provision stating that sound recording copyright holders (for most popular releases, that is usually the record company) have the exclusive right to authorize the performance of recorded songs by broadcast radio stations. That is in addition to the existing right to authorize the playing of these songs by digital audio transmissions (e.g.

    Request Filed with the FCC to Stay Effective Date of New Liberalized Rules on the Location of FM Translators for AM Stations

    Prometheus Radio Project, an advocacy group which has been active in lobbying for the interests of LPFM applicants and licensees, has asked that the FCC stay the April 10 effective date of the new rules liberalizing the location in which FM translators serving AM stations can locate (see its petition here ). We wrote about those new rules here and here . Prometheus alleges that the liberalization in the rules will restrict the areas in which LPFM stations can locate their transmitter sites if the sites from which they currently operate become unusable. Their allegation is that the moves by these translators will “box in” LPFM stations at their current site.

    Orban Offering NeuStar Air2 Codec Pre-Conditioner

    Pre-processor for broadcast and streaming

    FCC Releases Draft Order to Reinstate UHF Discount at April 20 Meeting – A New Round of TV Consolidation? 

    The FCC yesterday released the agenda for its April 20 th meeting – and it includes three broadcast items.  Two deal with noncommercial broadcasters (undoing the requirement for noncommercial broadcasters to get Social Security Numbers from its board members so that they can acquire an FCC Registration Number for them – see our articles here and here on this issue – and one allowing noncommercial broadcasters to interrupt programming to raise funds for unrelated non-profit organizations- see our article below ).  But in a decision which, if adopted, will likely have an immediate impact on the market for the purchase and sale of television stations, the FCC released a draft order , to be voted on at the April 20 meeting, proposing to reinstate the UHF discount . That discount, in assessing the broadcaster’s compliance with the 39% cap on the nationwide audience that any broadcaster can reach with TV stations in which it has an attributable interest, accords half the weight to the population of television markets in which a broadcaster holds a UHF station.  The discount was adopted back in the days of analog television, when UHF stations had signals that were harder for most viewers to receive, and the stations were more expensive to operate than VHF stations.  In the digital world, that deficit has disappeared, underlying the September decision of the Commission (which we summarized here ) to abolish the discount.  The September decision did away with the discount, and the Commission had effectively put on hold television transactions that would exceed the cap for several years while considering the September order.  This effectively froze the acquisition of new stations by the major television groups – a freeze that may quickly thaw if the Commission follows through and adopts its draft order on April 20. In the draft order released yesterday (as well as in Chairman Pai’s dissent in September), the fact that the discount was in place when the 39% cap was initially adopted was central.  The decision looks at the history of the national audience cap, and concludes that every time the cap was considered, the fact that there was a UHF discount was also recognized.  Thus, the decision reasons that the discount can only be changed in the context of an overall review of the 39% cap, a review not done in reaching the September decision. So the Commission apparently plans to reinstate the discount, and to undertake the review of the national audience cap at some point later this year.  Theoretically, after this review of the national cap, the FCC could come back and reexamine the UHF discount – though in the interim, broadcasters would apparently be free to rely on the discount, potentially allowing some groups to greatly expand their holdings of TV stations

    FCC Proposes to Adopt Rules Allowing Fundraising for Third-Party Nonprofit Organizations By Non-CPB Noncommercial Stations

    The FCC released the agenda for its April 20 th meeting – and it includes three broadcast items.  Two deal with noncommercial broadcasters ( undoing the requirement for noncommercial broadcasters to get Social Security Numbers from its board members so that they can acquire an FCC Registration Number for them – see our articles here and here on that issue – and one allowing noncommercial broadcasters to interrupt programming to raise funds for unrelated non-profit organizations ).   The third deals with the UHF discount (see our summary of this proposal here ).  The third-party fundraising issue has been pending at the FCC for almost 5 years, when the FCC proposed to relax its policy that prohibits noncommercial broadcasters from interrupting normal programming to raise funds for “third-party” nonprofit groups (see our article here on the proposal).  A noncommercial station can raise funds for nonprofit groups during normal program breaks in PSAs or other similar brief announcements, but under current policy, they cannot conduct a telethon or radiothon to raise funds for the Red Cross, a local charity, a religious organization or even for the football team or orchestra at a college or university that owns a noncommercial broadcast station. The FCC yesterday released its proposed order that would change the current policy.  It would allow a noncommercial station to raise funds for another non-profit entity, but only for 1% of its airtime – about 87 hours a year.  However, this relaxation would be limited to noncommercial stations that do not receive CPB funding , as many PBS and NPR stations opposed the change fearing that they would be deluged by requests for funding from local nonprofits (including, for university licensees, from their licensees themselves for non-station related financial needs).  It was feared that such campaigns could undermine the noncommercial service provided by these stations, and could interfere with the station’s own fundraising. But other noncommercial stations can, if this order is adopted, do this kind of fundraising for other nonprofit organizations.  Many, including religious broadcasters, saw these activities as being part of their mission.  However, the broadcaster who takes advantage of these new rules will have to make public file disclosures about the nature and extent of the fundraising efforts (detailing when they were done, for whom and even, if the broadcaster is involved in collecting the money, how much was raised).  Interesting, a supposedly deregulatory Commission appears ready to adopt new paperwork burdens for noncommercial broadcasters.  Such fundraising is limited to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.  Local charities that don’t have tax exempt status do not qualify.

    Plan Your April Fools’ Day On-Air Pranks with the FCC in Mind

    With April Fools’ Day only a few days away, we need to play our role as attorneys and ruin the fun by repeating our annual reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other bits prepared especially for the day.  While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes. While issues under this rule can arise at any time, broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1.  The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217 , prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) public harm is in fact caused.  Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.”  Air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, and expect to be fined by the FCC. This rule was adopted in the early 1990s after several incidents that were well-publicized in the broadcast industry, including one case where the on-air personalities at a station falsely claimed that they had been taken hostage, and another case where a station broadcast bulletins reporting that a local trash dump had exploded like a volcano and was spewing burning trash.  In both cases, first responders were notified about the non-existent emergencies, actually responded to the notices that listeners called in, and were prevented from responding to real emergencies.  In light of this sort of incident, the FCC adopted its prohibition against broadcast hoaxes.  But, as we’ve reminded broadcasters before, the FCC hoax rule is not the only reason to be wary on April 1.  Beyond potential FCC liability, any station activity that could present the risk of bodily harm to a participant also raises the potential for civil liability.  In cases where people are injured because first responders had been responding to the hoaxes instead of to real emergencies, stations could have faced potential liability.   If some April Fools’ stunt by a station goes wrong, and someone is injured either because police, fire or paramedics are tied up responding to a false alarm, or if someone is hurt rushing to or from the scene of the non-existent calamity that was reported on a radio station, the victim will be looking for a deep pocket to sue – and broadcasters may become the target.  Even a case that doesn’t result in liability can be expensive to defend and subject the station to unwanted negative publicity.  So, have fun, but be careful how you do it

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