BSkyB Continues as Ofcom Licensee

Media Law Prof Blog

From the Hollywood Reporter: NewsCorp will continue to hold a broadcast license, Ofcom has ruled. NewsCorp has issued a statement indicating it is "pleased" by the decision. However, the agency found James Murdoch's behavior as a company director "difficult to

FCC Upholds $50,000 Penalty for Noncommercial LMA Where Licensee Paid More than its Operational Expenses

Broadcast Law Blog

A decision that noncommercial broadcasters should note was released by the Commission last week. The decision was one that upheld a 2012 consent decree where, to resolve objections against the sale of a noncommercial radio station owned by the University of San Francisco, the Media Bureau imposed a fine of $50,000 for a pre-sale LMA which paid the licensee more than the costs of the operation of the station ( we wrote about that case and a similar case resolved earlier this year, here ).

FCC Says No to Court’s Enforcement of Contractual Rights that Limit Broadcast Licensee’s Control Rights – What Does this Mean for Broadcast Contracts? 

Broadcast Law Blog

How far can a court go in ordering broadcasters to comply with the terms of a contract? By trying to get a court to enforce a contract signed with a broadcaster, is the suing party infringing on a licensee’s control over its broadcast station license? The FCC’s letter states that it believes that the courts cannot order the relief that Media General seeks without infringing on the licensee’s rights to control the station.

$50,000 Penalty for LMA Operations – No Payments in Excess of Expenses for Noncommercial Licensees, and a Reminder that Licensee Must Remain in Control

Broadcast Law Blog

A consent decree, requiring $50,000 payment to the FCC by the licensee and programmer of a noncommercial radio station, demonstrates two potential problem areas for broadcasters involved in LMA or Time Brokerage (TBA) arrangements. Second, for any party engaged in an LMA, it is important for the licensee to maintain control over station operations – even if the bulk of the programming is coming from its LMA partner.

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

Broadcast Law Blog

Last week, we wrote about two of the three broadcast items to be considered at the FCC meeting on April 20. 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.

Appeal Date Set for Changes in FCC Rules for Biennial Ownership Reports – Why Many College and University Licensees are Concerned

Broadcast Law Blog

We summarized the changes in the requirements here – changes that include putting noncommercial stations on the same schedule as commercial stations (filing on December 1 of odd-numbered years) and requiring that all licensees obtain, for every person or entity with an attributable interest, an FCC Registration Number (an “FRN” ). The requirement for an FRN has triggered concern among many broadcasters, particularly those where licenses are held by a college or university.

When Is An FCC Fine Too Big? - Analyze Licensee Gross Income to Determine Hardship (For Noncommercial Licensees Too)

Broadcast Law Blog

In three cases released in the last week, the FCC grappled with the issue of when the amount of a fine (or a "forfeiture" as the FCC refers to it) imposed on a broadcaster for a violation of an FCC rule is too much to be sustained. Thus, the FCC has adopted a test where it will look at the gross revenues of the licensee of the station to see if the licensee can pay the fine. And, even for noncommercial or nonprofit broadcasters, these same tests apply.

FCC To Consider Allowing Alien Ownership of More Than 25% of Broadcast Licensees - Comments Due April 15

Broadcast Law Blog

The limits on the ownership of broadcast stations by those who are not US citizens is being re-examined by the FCC according to a recent Public Notice. Under Section 310(b)(4) of the Communications Act , foreign ownership of a broadcast licensee is limited to 20% of the company's stock , or no more than 25% of a parent company of the licensee. Could a foreign investor control a broadcast company (as has been approved in the wireless industry)?

The Confusing State of AM Radio Revitalization Efforts – No FM Translator Window for AM Licensees?

Broadcast Law Blog

This rethinking was first exhibited in an article on the FCC’s Blog, posted by FCC Chairman Wheeler on Monday morning, April 13 , just as the National Association of Broadcasters Convention was beginning in Las Vegas. The article quickly became a prime topic of conversation among radio broadcasters at the convention. We can speculate on some of the issues faced by the FCC in deciding on whether to open a translator window for AM licensees.

$1250 FCC Fine for Not Having Licensee's Articles of Incorporation in Station's Public File

Broadcast Law Blog

In a decision by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, the Commission issued a $1250 fine to a station that did not have its licensee's Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws in its public file when a listener came to check the file. But there is another troubling aspect to this case, and that deals with the decisions references to the Alternate Broadcast Inspection Program ("ABIP").

$11,000 Fine for Broadcast Station Tower Light Outage - FCC Emphasizes the Responsibility of Licensee To Maintain Lights if Tower Owner Does Not

Broadcast Law Blog

Fines for broadcast station tower owners who fail to maintain the required lighting on their tower are not unusual. But in a decision last week , the FCC made clear that, even if the licensee of a broadcast station is not the tower owner, it still has the responsibility for dealing with tower lights that are out, even if the tower owner does not. The failure of the licensee to maintain the tower lights, and other related issues, resulted in an $11,000 fine issued by the FCC.

FCC Approves For the First Time 100% Foreign Ownership of US Broadcast Stations

Broadcast Law Blog

The FCC yesterday released its first decision approving 100% foreign ownership of a group of US broadcast stations. This comes after significant relaxation of the FCC’s interpretation of the foreign ownership limits which, less than 4 years ago, had been interpreted to effectively prohibit foreign ownership of more than 25% of a company controlling broadcast licensees (see our article here about the 2013 decision to relax the restrictive policy).

Elimination of Requirement for Broadcasters to File Contracts and Agreements with the FCC Becomes Effective

Broadcast Law Blog

Back in October, the FCC eliminated the requirement that broadcasters file contracts and organizational documents with the Commission. General FCC filing of broadcasters contracts Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative online public inspection file station contracts and agreementsSee our post here for more details. That change became effective on January 22, 2019 , as noted in an FCC Public Notice released earlier this week.

Elimination of Requirement for Broadcasters to File Contracts and Agreements with the FCC Becomes Effective

Broadcast Law Blog

Back in October, the FCC eliminated the requirement that broadcasters file contracts and organizational documents with the Commission. General FCC filing of broadcasters contracts Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative online public inspection file station contracts and agreementsSee our post here for more details. That change became effective on January 22, 2019 , as noted in an FCC Public Notice released earlier this week.

Broadcast Creditors Beware – $11,000 Fine Imposed for FCC Reporting Shortcomings in an AM Foreclosure Action

Broadcast Law Blog

The fine was imposed both for an unauthorized transfer of control of the licensee of the station, and because of the failure of the receiver appointed by the Court to keep the FCC fully appraised of the status of the control of the licensee company while FCC approval for the receiver’s control of the station was still pending before the FCC. So for any creditor of a broadcast licensee, this case makes clear that you need to proceed with caution!

FCC Releases Draft Order to Eliminate Broadcasters’ Obligations to File Contracts, Relying on Online Public File to Make Documents Available

Broadcast Law Blog

The FCC this week released its draft order proposing to eliminate the requirement that broadcasters file certain contracts relating to ownership and control with the Commission. The rules had specifically allowed redactions in JSAs and time brokerage agreements, and many licensees assumed that general FCC provisions about protection of proprietary information also applied to other documents.

FCC Fines Public Broadcaster $10,000 for Missing Quarterly Issues Programs Lists – No Leniency Without Showing of Financial Hardship

Broadcast Law Blog

The FCC yesterday released an order fining a public broadcaster $10,000 for failing to prepare and place in its public file 13 consecutive quarterly issues programs lists. The licensee had pleaded that the radio station fine should be reduced given that the public file failure began when it acquired the station from a local college that was about to shut the station down as it was not financially viable for the college.

FCC Releases Draft Order to Eliminate Broadcasters’ Obligations to File Contracts, Relying on Online Public File to Make Documents Available

Broadcast Law Blog

The FCC this week released its draft order proposing to eliminate the requirement that broadcasters file certain contracts relating to ownership and control with the Commission. The rules had specifically allowed redactions in JSAs and time brokerage agreements, and many licensees assumed that general FCC provisions about protection of proprietary information also applied to other documents.

Advertising for CBD – Safe for Broadcasters?

Broadcast Law Blog

Broadcasters naturally ask whether they can advertise these seemingly ubiquitous products. Because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, we have written repeatedly that it remains a product that broadcasters are taking significant risks in advertising – even if it is legal in a particular state for medical or recreational purposes (see, for instance, our articles here and here ). But that does not end the broadcaster’s consideration as to whether to run a CBD ad.

FCC Updates Foreign Ownership Compliance Policies for Broadcast Companies

Broadcast Law Blog

At the FCC’s open meeting last week, the Commission adopted new policies for assessing and computing foreign ownership of broadcast companies – particularly such ownership in public companies. In addition, there are other public sources of information about funds and other investment companies that buy the stock of broadcast companies, from prospectuses to Internet news stories.

November Regulatory Dates For Broadcasters – Incentive Auction, EAS, Political and More

Broadcast Law Blog

November is one of those few months where there is a very light load of routine regulatory filings for broadcasters. Of course, there are several other dates that broadcasters need to be aware of. Once the FCC’s Broadcast Incentive Auction for television has concluded, the FCC will announce two windows for new FM translators. Broadcasters and others have an obligation to file test result data electronically through the FCC’s new Electronic Test Report System (ETRS).

The Murky State of Rules on Broadcast Advertising of Marijuana Products in States Which Have Legalized its Sale or Use

Broadcast Law Blog

Broadcasters, like other federally regulated industries, continue to be leery about advertising for marijuana, even in states where cannabis dispensaries have been legalized for medical or even recreational use. Where the federal regulator (the FCC) has provided no advice whatsoever, broadcasters as regulated entities need to be very restrained in their desires to run ads for these dispensaries that appear to be legal under state laws.

October Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Many Routine Filings for All Broadcasters, Incentive Auction Actions, and More

Broadcast Law Blog

October is one of those months where the regulatory stars align, when not only do broadcasters in many states have EEO Public File report obligations, but also Quarterly Issues Programs Lists need to be placed in the public files of all commercial and noncommercial stations, and Quarterly Children’s Television Reports need to be filed at the FCC and placed in the public files of television stations.

FCC Gives No Special Consideration to Noncommercial Broadcasters Who Violate the Rules - Colleges Pay Attention to Your Radio Station!

Broadcast Law Blog

In a decision fining a noncommercial radio station $7200 for failure to have several year's worth of quarterly issues programs lists in its public inspection file , the FCC specifically stated that it does not have a reduced scale for fines for noncommercial broadcasters. The days when noncommercial broadcasters could count on being treated by the FCC with a lighter regulatory touch are over.

Protecting Broadcast Investors’ Social Security Numbers for the Biennial Ownership Report for Commercial Broadcasters (and, Potentially, Noncommercial Ones Too)

Broadcast Law Blog

If all goes as scheduled, at the beginning of December, commercial broadcasters will file Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323. As we wrote when the obligation to file the current version of these reports was first adopted , the FCC’s intent was to be able to track the interests of broadcast investors across all of their attributable ownership interests in various broadcast companies to assess broadcast diversity.

$25,000 Fine for Broadcast of Telephone Conversations Without Permission

Broadcast Law Blog

Just two weeks after rejecting a claim that the FCC's rule against the broadcast of a telephone conversation without permission was unconstitutional , the Commission's Enforcement Bureau made clear that it would not hesitate to enforce that rule - and enforce it vigorously. In a recent decision , the Commission proposed a $25,000 to a broadcaster who ran two different telephone conversations on the air without the prior permission of the people at the other end of the phone line.

What’s Up for Broadcasters in Washington Under the New Administration – A Look Ahead at TV and Radio FCC Issues for the Rest of 2017

Broadcast Law Blog

But there are many other broadcast issues that are unresolved to one degree or another – and potentially new issues ready to be discussed by the FCC this year. We usually dust off the crystal ball and make predictions about the legal issues that will impact the business of broadcasters earlier in the year, but we have waited this year to get a taste for the changes in store from the new administration. General Broadcast Issues. Foreign Ownership of Broadcast Stations.

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Undoing the Past – New FCC Rescinds Rulings on Noncommercial Ownership Reports, Political Broadcasting Sponsorship Disclosure and Shared Services Agreements

Broadcast Law Blog

At the end of this last week, we saw the FCC’s Media Bureau take actions in three different proceedings directly applicable to broadcasters to undo what had been done during the prior administration – r escinding actions with respect to noncommercial ownership reports , the disclosure of information about the sponsor of political advertisements, and on the treatment of TV assignment and transfer applications for television stations where shared service agreements are involved.

The Limits on FCC Leniency on Fines for Noncommercial Broadcast Stations

Broadcast Law Blog

In Friday’s decision , the licensee of an Atlantic City noncommercial radio station filed its license application four years late , long after the station’s license had expired. While the FCC reached a settlement with the licensee, it broke out the “civil penalty” (i.e. a fine) paid by the licensee into two parts. I’ll be posting slides from the state broadcaster presentation here at some point in the next week to provide more information on these important compliance issues.

What Washington Has in Store for Broadcasters in 2015 – Part 1, What’s Up at the FCC

Broadcast Law Blog

Each year, at about this time, we pull out the crystal ball and make predictions of the issues affecting broadcasters that will likely bubble up to the top of the FCC’s agenda in the coming year. But here is our try at listing at least some of the issues that broadcasters should expect from Washington in the coming year. In addition, watch these pages for our calendar of regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in the next few days. General Broadcast Issues.

Radio Owner Forfeits Several FCC Licenses for Being Silent For Prolonged Periods of Time – Warning to Broadcasters for Next License Renewal Cycle

Broadcast Law Blog

Last week, the FCC issued a consent decree entered into with a broadcaster who is the licensee of multiple radio stations, many of which were silent for long periods during the last license renewal cycle. As part of the deal, in order to get renewals for 12 stations granted, the licensee agreed to either surrender the licenses for 9 other stations or to donate them to nonprofit groups.

On Its 20th Anniversary, Looking Back at How the Telecommunications Act of 1996 Changed the Broadcast Regulatory Landscape

Broadcast Law Blog

Five years ago, we noted the changes that the Act made in the broadcast regulatory world – changes that are still being debated 20 years later. There, I talked about some of the changes made in 1996 in the broadcast ownership rules that were still being debated in 2011, and suggested that they might be resolved by the review of the multiple ownership rules that was then about to begin.

Buyers of Stock of FCC Licensee are not Relieved from Fines for FCC Violations of Former Owners

Broadcast Law Blog

The FCC last week issued a decision that should make Buyers think twice in determining how sales of broadcast stations are concluded - especially in the days of $325,000 potential fines for indecency violations. Thus, to fully protect themselves from any prior FCC violations, a sale would have to be conducted through assigning the FCC licenses to a new corporation, rather than by buying the stock of the current licensee.

FCC Fines Another Broadcaster For Not Announcing All Rules of a Contest - While One Broadcaster Protests

Broadcast Law Blog

In recent years, the FCC has been to aggressively enforcing a policy requiring broadcasters to announce all material rules of a contest on the air enough times for a reasonable listener to hear the announcements. This past week, there was yet another case where this policy was enforced, resulting in a $4000 fine to a broadcaster. Apparently, at least one broadcaster, Entercom Communications, has decided to challenge this interpretation of the rules.

April Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television Reports and Much More

Broadcast Law Blog

April brings the whole panoply of routine regulatory dates – from the need to prepare EEO Public File and Noncommercial Ownership Reports in some states, to Quarterly Issues Programs lists for all full-power broadcast stations and Quarterly Children’s Television Programming Reports for all TV stations. So let’s look at some of the specific dates that broadcasters need to remember this coming month. For more on these routine regulatory dates, see our Broadcasters Calendar, here.

FCC Denies Reconsideration of Noncommercial Broadcasting Ownership Report Requirements – But Signs that New Commission May See Things Differently

Broadcast Law Blog

The FCC’s Media Bureau yesterday issued an order denying reconsideration of the full Commission decision from last year , synchronizing the Biennial Ownership Report filing requirement for noncommercial broadcasters with that of commercial broadcasters, and requiring that all individuals who have attributable interests in these stations obtain an FCC Registration Number (an “FRN”)(see our summary of the FCC order from last year here ).

What’s Up in Washington For Broadcasters in 2014? — Part 1, FCC Issues

Broadcast Law Blog

It is the beginning of another year – and a time to look ahead to look ahead at what broadcasters should expect from Washington in the coming year. In addition, watch these pages for our calendar of regulatory deadlines for broadcasters in the next few days. Issues unique to radio and TV, and those that could affect the broadcast industry generally, are addressed below. General Broadcast Issues.

FCC to Consider Allowing Increased Foreign Ownership of Broadcast Stations at Its November Meeting

Broadcast Law Blog

At its November 14 meeting, the FCC is tentatively scheduled to consider the relaxation of its limits on the ownership of broadcast stations by foreign entities or citizens. Under the current “ alien ownership ” limitations, US citizens or entities must own 80% of a broadcast licensee, or 75% of a licensee’s parent company. In the broadcast world, the 25% alien ownership limit must be analyzed both as to equity and voting interests.

What Washington Has in Store for Broadcasters in 2016 – Looking at the Legal Issues that the FCC Will Be Considering in the New Year

Broadcast Law Blog

It’s that time of the year when we need to dust off the crystal ball and make predictions about the legal issues that will impact the business of broadcasters in 2016. We’ll start today with issues likely to be considered by the FCC, and we’ll write later about issues that may arise on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the maze of government agencies and courts who deal with broadcast issues. General Broadcast Issues. Foreign Ownership of Broadcast Stations.

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$35,000 FCC Fine for TV Station that Tapes Telephone Conversations for News Broadcast Without Prior Permission

Broadcast Law Blog

In a Consent Decree released the day after Thanksgiving, the FCC agreed to accept a payment of a $35,000 penalty from a former television licensee for recording two telephone conversations for inclusion in a newscast, where the station called an outside party and recorded those conversations for inclusion in the newscast – before getting permission to do the recording. FCC Fines Privacy Programming Regulations broadcast of telephone calls FCC privacy regulation Section 73.1206

$16,000 Fine For Recording Telephone Conversation for Broadcast Without Prior Permission - No Excuse Because Call Made By Independent Contractor, By Subsequent Approval, or By the First Amendment

Broadcast Law Blog

Two FCC cases were released last week fining broadcasters for violations of the FCC rule against broadcasting a telephone call (or recording a call for broadcast purposes) without first obtaining the permission of the person at the other end of the call. The size of the fine may seem surprising, but the Commission's staff found $16,000 to be appropriate due to the fact that the same licensee had just recently been fined for a similar offense.

Buyers of Broadcast Stations Through Stock Transfer Beware – Liability for Fines of Prior Owner Can Still be Imposed After the Transfer

Broadcast Law Blog

In a recent decision , the FCC made clear that when there is a transfer of control of a station through the sale of the stock of the licensee company, the new owners are not absolved of any FCC violations that may have taken place when the old owners controlled the company. Note however, as we wrote here , if a compliance issue was discovered by the FCC before the sale, it is possible that the FCC could go after the old licensee for a fine, even after a sale has been completed).

September Regulatory Dates for Broadcasters – Annual Regulatory Fees; Nationwide EAS Test; Comment Dates on FM Translator Interference, Audio Competition, Children’s Television Requirements, and Reimbursement for LPTV and FM Repacking Costs; and More

Broadcast Law Blog

While September is one of those months with neither EEO reports nor Quarterly Issues Programs or Children’s Television Reports, that does not mean that there are no regulatory matters of importance to broadcasters. Quite the contrary – as there are many deadlines to which broadcasters should be paying attention. That agenda should be released next week, and we will see what broadcast items may be on it just in time for the Radio Show at the end of the month.