The Georgia Association of Broadcasters retains counsel in both DC and Atlanta to track ongoing developments in legislative and regulatory moves that impact our membership. GAB makes sure you know the details and potential impact of what is coming next. We regularly rally our membership to timely grass roots campaigns designed to tell elected and regulatory officials the importance of the Georgia Broadcasting agenda.
URGENT PLEASE CALL JOHN BARROW AND PHIL GINGREY, GEORGIA’S MEMBERS ON THE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE
Dear GAB Television Member,
We need your immediate help in asking members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to support a clean reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act – known as STELA.
This bill gives satellite companies, like DISH and DirecTV, permission to import distant signals to local markets in limited circumstances. Every five years when this bill is reauthorized, however, there is a coordinated push by cable and satellite companies to use STELA as a vehicle for controversial proposals, such as detrimental changes to retransmission consent and the basic tier, which undergird the local broadcasting model.
We understand that the bill may contain the elimination of the basic tier for retransmission consent stations and other harmful provisions. There is a meeting of the subcommittee members on Monday, March 3 at 5 p.m. to decide what this bill will look like.
So, between now and then, TV broadcasters and their employees need to do everything possible to ask their members of Congress to advocate for a clean STELA bill.
Advocate for a clean STELA bill and communicate that to Chairmen Fred Upton (MI-06) and Greg Walden at the member’s meeting on Monday afternoon.
Please have as many station employees call your congressional office(s) as soon as possible to communicate your concerns. You can call over the weekend and leave messages. Please note, you may have stations represented by multiple committee members; we ask that you make a phone call to each of these offices:
Phil Gingrey DC Office: 202-225-2931 http://gingrey.house.gov/
John Barrow DC Office: 202-225-2823 http://barrow.house.gov/
Below you will find talking points in the event you engage a Congressional staffer on the phone.
· I understand that you and your colleagues will soon be making a decision about what provisions the STELA bill will include. I strongly encourage you to voice your opinion to the committee that this bill be free from any changes that harm local TV stations like mine.
· Broadcasters do not benefit from this reauthorization, but are willing to support it, so long as its reauthorization is clean and does not become a vehicle for additional changes to law that harm our ability to continue to serve your constituents and our viewers.
· The ideas being floated as possible changes to STELA could be very harmful to my TV station and would take dollars away from local markets like mine, leaving me with less to invest in my local news, weather, sports and emergency information.
· It is very important to me and my station that this bill not pick winners and losers in the video marketplace. The STELA bill should have a narrow focus, which is why we support a clean reauthorization.
· Representative [insert name], can I count on your support for a clean STELA reauthorization? If so, would you communicate your desire for a clean STELA bill to Chairmen Fred Upton and Greg Walden?
AM Towers and Construction Near AM Stations
Word comes to GAB from our Washington, DC Counsel David O’Conner with Wilkinson Barker Knauer. If you would like to hear from David in person at the GAB Winter Institute Breakfast With Counsel on Wednesday, March 5, contact Frances Williamson at GAB at 770-395-7200.
The FCC released the public notice linked below to announce that the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Media Bureau have developed a tool called “AM Tower Tool.” Using this tool, parties proposing construction or modification of a tower can input their proposed location and the tool will determine if there are operating AM stations within the coordination distances specified in Section 1.30002 of the FCC’s rules that may potentially be affected. The AM Tower Tool will also alert tower construction and modification proponents of the locations of AM facilities within the coordination distances that are authorized but not yet operating. The link to the AM Tower Tool is http://fcc.github.io/am-tower-locator/
The FCC also announced an effective date of February 20, 2014 of AM tower rules that required prior OMB approval.
Released: 02/21/2014. NOTICE OF EFFECTIVE DATE OF AM TOWER RULES REQUIRING OMB APPROVAL. (DA No. 14-228). (Dkt No 93-177 ). MB . Contact: Susan Crawford at (202) 418-2754, email: Susan.Crawford@fcc.gov or FCC Licensing Support Hotline at (877) 480-3201, TTY: (202) 418-7172 or (888) 835-5322. News Media Contact: Janice Wise at (202) 418-8165, email: Janice.Wise@fcc.gov http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-14-228A1.docx
New EEO Audits Announced By FCC
This information for GAB Members comes from David O’Connor of GAB DC Counsel Wilkinson Barker Knauer. You can hear from David personally at the GAB Winter Institute’s Breakfast With Counsel on March 5. Contact Frances at GAB at 770-395-7200 for more information.
A new round of radio and TV station EEO audits has been announced by the FCC (see links below). Several Georgia stations are included on the list of affected stations. Affected stations should take this matter very seriously and should provide the best and most comprehensive audit response possible.
Audit responses are due by March 31, 2014.
Please contact our office with any questions.
|Media Bureau Mails Broadcast EEO Audit Letters|
|Word : DA-14-206A1.doc|
|Acrobat : DA-14-206A1.pdf|
|Text : DA-14-206A1.txt|
The FCC Is Redistributing Spectrum, Not Freeing It
The agency’s bias for broadband overlooks the benefits of broadcast.
By Mark S. Fowler
Jan. 23, 2014
For the past five years, the Federal Communications Commission has cheered wireless broadband as the future of communications. But television broadcasters have much of the spectrum that wireless companies want. So the FCC has intervened to reassign chunks of spectrum from one group to another—and its broadband bias comes at the expense of broadcasters.
Television broadcasters already converted more than 25% of their spectrum to digital in 2009. That wasn’t enough to end the so-called shortage. In 2010, the FCC proposed that broadcasters relinquish an additional 120 MHz—20 channels—to be repurposed for broadband. In 2012, Congress authorized the FCC to reallocate the spectrum through a voluntary auction, with the Treasury and the broadcasters sharing in the proceeds.
In December, the new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hit the pause button on this effort. Mr. Wheeler did so in part to ensure that the software required to host a complicated, two-sided auction wouldn’t become an iteration of the Healthcare.gov debacle.
But before it proceeds, the FCC needs a more realistic vision of spectrum use that accounts for the public’s benefit from all types of users. Its auction needs rules to recognize spectrum’s different dynamic uses, not just broadband.
The FCC’s preoccupation with wireless broadband has pushed to the side any other use for the spectrum. But the agency’s seeming indifference to TV broadcasting overlooks this medium’s efficiency. Broadcasting uses a point-to-multipoint network architecture, meaning a high-power TV signal is transmitted from one tower and received by many receivers. The service area can span hundreds of square miles.
Cellular service, or broadband, is point-to-point—from one location or person to another. It uses many small antenna sites, with low-power transmitters covering small areas. Broadcasting trounces cellular service in efficiency and reliability. Thanks to its structure, broadcasting can reach millions more people per unit of spectrum bandwidth used.
Broadband fails when the local tower site nearest to the user fails. In a bomb threat at a crowded stadium, broadband service is useless as soon as traffic overwhelms the nearest tower. Should one TV broadcasting station fail, however, many others can provide further advisories in an emergency. Broadcasting kept more than eight million people safe and informed during Hurricane Sandy. Broadband can’t do that.
The turn in FCC policy against broadcasting also discounts the growing audiences for free over-the-air TV. While broadcast TV is mostly viewed through cable and satellite, the annual survey by GfK, the market research institute, reported that nonpay TV households constitute more than 19% of the population, up from 14% two years ago. Centris Marketing Science in October 2013 reported pay TV audiences declined to 83% of the population, amid cord-cutting, booming over-the-air antenna sales and new broadcast DTV channels. FCC rhetoric of “all broadband, all the time,” doesn’t reflect public interest when it comes to licensed spectrum.
The FCC should dispense with its usual spectrum prejudices before the 2015 auction. It should consider technological means that enable a broadcast or cellular licensee to share existing spectrum dynamically when not using it. One such innovation is instant, electronic auctions that align spectrum supply and demand. These services allow someone in Manhattan with AT&T to instantly borrow spectrum from another carrier to complete a call during a peak traffic time. (Disclosure: I’m on the board of a company called Rivada Networks that does just that.) These entrepreneurial solutions are a financial and service win for companies and the FCC alike.
Furthermore, the FCC certainly shouldn’t bow to lobbyists for T-Mobile and Sprint. The two companies, German and Japanese-owned, respectively, are pushing to restrict the amount of spectrum AT&T and Verizon can purchase under the guise of fostering “competition.”
Wireless broadband is a vital service that has transformed the world of communication. But it’s not the only service. Broadcasting remains the primary source of news and information for more than 300 million Americans, and the go-to source when disaster strikes. The two are complementary: Broadband is for personalization; broadcasting is for coverage. The FCC should recognize the differences and put the broadband pompoms down.
Mr. Fowler was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan.
GAB FCC 2014 Broadcast Calendar
Courtesy of David O’Connor, Wilkinson Barker and Knauer LLP comes 2014 FCC Calendar for Georgia Broadcast Calendar. This document contains the important 2014 dates with regards to regulatory deadlines for Georgia radio and television operators. GAB will post these deadlines individually as they approach, but this is an excellent resource for your internal staff dealing with public files, ownership reports, and EEO issues. Click at the link below to download
WBK Spectrum Auction Watch 1/22/14
In an interview for C-SPAN’s The Communicators that aired this weekend, Commissioner Ajit Pai said the incentive auction would take place in 2015, assuming the FCC completes needed preparations such as “aggressive outreach to broadcasters.” Pai added that “[i]t would be foolhardy to limit spectrum holdings.”
In remarks at the 3.5 GHz workshop on January 14, Chairman Tom Wheeler noted that the incentive auction affects “how we think economically about spectrum going forward.”
Trade publications reported earlier this month that Howard Symons, a partner at Mintz Levin, will join the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force as vice chair, working under Gary Epstein. The FCC has not issued a formal announcement to date. To read the remainder of Ryan’s debrief on current spectrum auction issues click through to the GAB Ask Counsel Blog here.
FCC Quarterly Issues and Children’s Programming Deadline Coming January 10
Please note the following upcoming FCC deadlines for GAB member stations:
Quarterly Issues/Programs Lists
January 10: All full power AM, FM, Class A TV and full power TV stations must place their quarterly issues/programs lists in their station public inspection files. The issues/programs list should include details of important issues affecting a station’s community, and the station’s programming aired during October, November and December 2013 that addressed those issues. The list should include the time, date, duration and title of each program, along with a brief description of each program and how that program relates to the relevant community issue. At a minimum, it is recommended that at least 6 to 10 issues be identified on the list, as well as a number of programs responsive to each issue. It is advisable to include PSAs and other community-oriented programming in the quarterly list, although PSAs alone are not sufficient evidence of community-oriented programming.
TV stations must upload their quarterly issues/programs list to their FCC-hosted online public file. Radio stations should continue placing their issues/programs lists in their paper public files or on a computer located at the main studio.
In addition, there is an ongoing proceeding in which the FCC has proposed adopting a quarterly “program reporting form” that would replace the current issues/programs list requirement for TV stations. We are monitoring this issue. For now, TV stations should continue to maintain quarterly issues/programs lists. Radio stations also should continue to complete quarterly issues/programs lists.
January 10: TV stations must file their quarterly FCC Form 398 children’s programming reports electronically with the FCC. A copy of the form, once filed, will be automatically uploaded by the FCC to the station’s online public inspection file. TV stations must also complete a certification of compliance with the FCC’s commercial limits during children’s programming aired in the Fourth Quarter of 2013, and that certification must be manually uploaded to the station’s online public file. TV stations also must complete a certification of compliance with the requirements concerning the display of website addresses during children’s programming; however, there does not appear to be any place to upload the website address certification. It appears that stations can elect to either upload such certifications along with their commercial limits certifications, or retain the website certifications in their private records.
TV stations are reminded to periodically publicize the existence and location of the station’s Form 398 reports, in the form of periodic on-air announcements and website information.
Can An Advertiser Say “We Will Pay Your Sales Tax?”
Member station contacted GAB to see whether it is okay for an advertiser to say that they will “pay the customer’s sales tax” on an advertised item. The member suggested a copy change to say “we will pay the equivalent of sales tax.” What does Georgia law say?
GAB’s Georgia Counsel replied: As a general matter, any retail dealer is required to collect sales tax from the purchaser. However, under O.C.G.A. § 48-8-36 a retail dealer is permitted to advertise that it will absorb the sales tax as long as the advertisement includes a statement that the dealer will remit payment on behalf of the purchaser to the tax commissioner. Specifically O.C.G.A. § 48-8-36 provides:
No person engaged in making retail sales shall advertise or represent to the public in any manner directly or indirectly that he or she will absorb all or any part of the tax or that he or she will relieve the purchaser of the payment of all or any part of the tax imposed by this article unless:
(1) The retailer includes in the advertisement that any portion of the tax not paid by the purchaser will be remitted on behalf of the purchaser by the retailer; and
(2) The retailer furnishes the purchaser with written evidence that the retailer will be liable for and pay any tax the purchaser was relieved from paying under this Code section.
If a retailer advertises that any portion of the tax not paid by the purchaser will be remitted on the purchaser’s behalf by the retailer, the retailer shall be solely liable for and shall pay that portion of the tax. If a dealer or retailer complies with the provisions of this Code section and pays the absorbed tax over to the commissioner as provided by law, the dealer or retailer shall be deemed to have complied with the provisions of this article requiring collection of the tax from the purchaser or consumer.
Do you have a question for Ask GAB Counsel? Call us at 770-395-7200 or email email@example.com.
EEO Fines From FCC Serve To Remind GA Broadcasters To Keep Up EEO Files, Notifications
Information courtesy of GAB Washington, DC Counsel David O’Connor of Wilkinson, Barker and Knauer:
On December 5, the FCC issued an EEO-related Notice of Apparent Liability against two separate station groups: one commercial (AMFM Broadcasting Licenses) and one non-commercial (Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission or MPBC).
In each case, the FCC found as a result of a random EEO audit that the licensee of the group apparently violated the FCC’s EEO rules by failing to comply with the requirement to send information about job openings to community organizations that had asked to be notified about such openings, and for failing to self-assess EEO performance. To prevent future violations of these requirements, the FCC proposed a fine and imposed reporting conditions on each licensee.
These cases highlight the importance of good recordkeeping and ensuring that job vacancy information is sent to any organization that requests it.
Links to the decisions are provided below. Please contact our office with any questions.
AMFM BROADCASTING LICENSES, LLC, LICENSEE OF STATIONS WNUA(FM), CHICAGO, IL; WGCI-FM, CHICAGO, IL; WKSC-FM, CHICAGO, IL; WGRB(AM), CHICAGO, IL; WLIT-FM, CHICAGO, IL; WVAZ(FM), OAK PARK, IL. Notified AMFM Broadcasting Licenses, LLC of its Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in the amount of $20,000 for reporting conditions issued for violations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Rules. Action by: Chief, Media Bureau. Adopted: 12/05/2013 by NALF. (DA No. 13-2330). MB DA-13-2330A1.docx DA-13-2330A1.pdf DA-13-2330A1.txt
MARYLAND PUBLIC BROADCASTING COMMISSION, LICENSEE OF STATIONS WMPB(TV), BALTIMORE, MD; WCPB(TV), SALISBURY, MD; WFPT(TV), FREDERICK, MD; WGPT(TV), OAKLAND, MD; WMPT(TV), ANNAPOLIS, MD; WWPB(TV), HAGERSTOWN, MD. Notified The Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission of its Apparent Liability for Forfeiture in the amount of $20,000 for reporting conditions issued for violations of the Equal Employment Opportunity Rules. Action by: Chief, Media Bureau. Adopted: 12/05/2013 by NALF. (DA No. 13-2331). MB DA-13-2331A1.docx DA-13-2331A1.pdf DA-13-2331A1.txt
What Does Your FM Station Have At Stake With New LPFM Licenses?
Information courtesy of GAB Washington, DC Counsel David O’Connor of Wilkinson, Barker and Knauer:
As you are likely aware, the FCC received approximately 2800 Low Power FM (LPFM) applications during the recent LPFM filing window. Several hundred applications have already been accepted for filing, with a 30-day petition to deny period. The LPFM applications were listed in a series of public notices released last week and today, with potentially more applications to be listed in public notices in the coming days.
Full power FM stations may want to review the LPFM applications that have proposed operations near their facilities, or have a consulting engineer do so, in order to confirm whether any of the LPFM applications are problematic, particularly those applications that have been accepted for filing.
Unfortunately there is no single link that provides a list of the current LPFM filings that have been accepted for filing. The FCC has decided (unwisely, in my opinion) to issue the LPFM singletons in separate public notices over the course of several days, with perhaps more to come. Stations would need to check the FCC Daily Digest each day (http://transition.fcc.gov/) beginning with the Broadcast Applications released on November 26, 2013. Otherwise stations should be in touch with a consulting engineer to make sure their interests are represented in this process.
FCC Deadline Reminders December 2 for Ownership, EEO Public File, and DTV Report
December 2: All commercial radio and TV stations, including Low Power TV and Class A TV stations, must electronically file an FCC Form 323 ownership report. The report must reflect ownership interests as of October 1, 2013.
Annual EEO Public File Reports
December 2: All broadcast stations in Georgia (unless exempt) must place in their public inspection files an EEO public file report.
FCC Form 317 DTV Report
December 2: All commercial digital TV licensees (including LPTVs) must file the annual FCC Form 317 ancillary/supplementary services report. Stations must remit to the FCC 5% of gross revenues derived from such ancillary services, if any. The report must be filed even if no ancillary services were provided in the prior year.
By December 2: Broadcast stations in Georgia must report to the FCC any “adverse finding” or “adverse action” taken by any court or administrative body against the licensee or holding company of the station(s) or its investors. Such adverse decisions or findings include any conduct that would be relevant to the qualifications of a person or company to be a broadcast licensee or control a broadcast license, including: (a) fraudulent misrepresentations to governmental agencies (including but not limited to the FCC), (b) criminal misconduct involving false statements or dishonesty, (c) broadcast-related antitrust violations, (d) felony convictions and (e) misdemeanor convictions involving fraud or dishonesty. The FCC only requires licensees to report actions that are considered legally “final.” An adverse action is not considered final until it is fully adjudicated by the governmental agency or court at issue without the right to further appeal. The adverse findings report should address all adverse findings from December 1, 2012 until December 2, 2013. No action is required if a
station has not had any adverse findings or adverse actions taken against it during this time period.
Many of you saw the We Are Broadcasters TV spot during the recend GAB Honors Night program. We Are Broadcasters is an NAB Campaign designed to remind our audience, our commercial partners, and our elected officials and regulators just how important over-the-air broadcasters are in the communities we serve.
We encourage you to feature We Are Broadcasters on your stations and on your websites. As we move forward into a year where achieving legal First Informer status for broadcasters will be a legislative priority, we need good news about broadcasters seen and heard everywhere.
For more information about We Are Broadcasters or to download a spot, click here.
GAB Member General Manager asks GAB Counsel:
We’ve developed a contest that allows a viewer to register using a text short code. We understand that there are sometimes costs associated with sending a text message for customers who do not have an unlimited texting plan on their phones.
The grand prize for our contest is an insured cash prize, so all that remains is a call regarding “Consideration”. We were hoping to have no other method of entry, other than via Text. Are carrier costs enough to be looked upon as “consideration”. I believe, the cost of a text message is less than a postage stamp in almost all cases.
In the past I’ve been told that Internet entry is sufficient, now that it is so widely available. However, is there an issue if we only allow entry via text, since it might not be determined to be widely enough available?
GAB Georgia Counsel Derek Bauer replies:
What a great question. The Georgia Supreme Court has held that text messaging entries are not “gambling consideration” in the TV game show context. Moreover, the “cost” of a text message could not possibly be more material than the cost associated with requiring entrants to actually be physically present for a drawing in order to be eligible, which the Georgia courts have long held does not constitute prohibitive consideration. I believe you are on solid legal ground, run with it.
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