This Week in Regulation for Broadcasters: January 29, 2022 to February 4, 2022

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the last week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced several leadership changes at the FCC. The changes include a new head of the Media Bureau, which oversees policies and licensing for broadcasters. The new Chief will be Holly Saurer, who has much experience in supervisory roles at the Bureau and has also served as an advisor on media matters to two FCC Commissioners.  The Enforcement Bureau, which enforces FCC rules (including EEO) and oversees operation of the FCC field offices, will be headed by Loyaan Egal, a former federal prosecutor who was most recently at the Justice Department overseeing foreign investment issues.  The Chairwoman’s News Release sets out details of these and other appointments.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights held a hearing examining the impact of Big Tech on local journalism and the merits of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. That Act, which we summarized here, would allow traditional media companies to jointly negotiate with tech platforms to set rates for the use by the platforms of content from these media companies.  Joel Oxley of Hubbard Radio’s WTOP News Radio represented the NAB and broadcasters in arguing in favor of the legislation, and representatives of other traditional media companies also spoke in support of the legislation.  They argued that tech platforms were building their businesses by distributing media company content without adequate consideration, and the preservation of local journalism required fair compensation to the local media outlets creating the content.  Other participants countered that the proposed legislation would infringe on the tech platforms right to make “fair use” of content from traditional media and argued that the legislation would allow big traditional media companies to get bigger while not benefitting small local outlets.  More information on the hearing and the arguments that were made, including archived video, can be found here.
  • On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing examining the American Music Fairness Act, which proposes to impose a sound recording performance royalty on over-the-air radio, to be paid to SoundExchange. We wrote about that legislation when it was introduced, here.  NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt represented radio broadcasters and urged the committee to reject the legislation, defending radio’s role in local communities, and discussing the importance of not upending the structure of music licensing that has developed over the last century. He also reiterated the radio industry’s willingness to negotiate with the recording industry on these royalties but stated that the music industry has refused to participate in such discussions.  Music industry representatives, pushing for a Congressional vote on the royalty, emphasized how the US is one of the few countries in the world to not have a sound recording performance royalty on broadcasters, and argued that broadcasters no longer provided the promotional value to musicians that they once did, with digital platforms (which do pay these royalties) now playing that role. Witness testimony and video of the hearing are available, here.
  • As a follow-up to what we wrote last week, the Senate Commerce Committee pulled consideration of Gigi Sohn’s nomination to be an FCC Commissioner from its February 2 session, and will now have a further hearing on the nomination on February 9 (Executive Session agenda). A vote on her nomination is likely delayed further if no Republican support for her nomination materializes as, due to New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan’s current absence while recovering from a stroke, there will be insufficient votes for the committee to approve the nomination and pass it on to the full Senate for consideration.
  • A $7000 fine was imposed on a Mississippi AM licensee for not filing its license renewal application until after its license had expired and continuing to operate the station without permission (Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture). The final radio license renewal applications for the current cycle will be filed by radio stations in Delaware and Pennsylvania on or before April 1 (with the TV license renewal cycle running a year behind).  If your station has not yet filed its renewal application, this case reminds you of the penalties for not filing on time.
  • The licensee of a Florida translator station faces a $3,500 fine for failing to timely file a license to cover application after constructing a new facility. Stay in touch with your engineering and legal advisors after completing construction of a new facility to be sure you are filing all necessary applications and documents to inform the FCC of the changes in your operations.  (Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture)

Courtesy Broadcast Law Blog