Summer, 2016 NAB Update
By: Bruce Goldsen, Jackson Radio Works & NAB Radio Board Member
It’s been a lovely summer in Michigan, with plenty of sunshine and heat. The heat in Washington is, as always, turned up high on issues affecting broadcasters.
We have good news to report concerning the Department of Justice antitrust division’s review of the longstanding music license Performing Rights Organization (PRO) consent degrees. DOJ has adopted the position advanced by NAB and other music licensees and made no modifications to the consent decrees governing ASCAP and BMI. Further, DOJ is clarifying its interpretation that the consent decrees provide broadcasters and other licensees the right to play any musical work contained in the ASCAP and BMI repertories regardless of whether the work is partially owned by a rights holder outside of those PROs.
While the music industry would like the public to believe that this decision represents a major upheaval in the licensing of musical works, this decision actually maintains the status quo, and creates increased certainty around the current licensing model that is a significant win for broadcasters and other music licensees. We believe the DOJ made the correct decision to stay the course that’s been working for both industries for years.
Meanwhile, our efforts to stop any Performance Tax have been quite successful. As of mid-July, there are 231 co-sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate, including Michigan Representatives Dan Benishek, Fred Upton, Tim Walberg and Candice Miller. We thank them for their continued support of local broadcasters.
The Federal Communications Commission’s second window for AM radio licensees to file an application to modify and/or relocate an FM translator up to 250 miles opens July 29th. This upcoming window is open to all Class A and Class B stations, as well as any AM licensees that did not participate in the first such window for Class C and Class D stations that closes on July 28, 2016. NAB encourages all AM radio stations to consult with counsel and work with an engineering consultant to determine if obtaining and relocating an FM translator would benefit your station.
The FCC’s voluntary incentive auction ended its first phase in June, with the Commission announcing that reverse auction established the price of 126 MHz of television airwaves taken from broadcasters to be sold for wireless use at $86.4 billion. According to the NAB’s Dennis Wharton, “broadcasters have done our part; now it’s up to the wireless industry to demonstrate the demand is there for low-band TV spectrum.”
In other news of interest, after a 13 month NTIA-led process, NAB and other news gathering organizations reached an agreement with other stakeholders in May on a “consensus” best practices document relating to commercial Unmanned Aerial System (UAS or drone) operation. The NAB’s goal from the outset was to carve out newsgatherers from these broad restrictions on a First Amendment basis. The underlying rationale being the strong public interest in promoting a free press which justifies treating news organizations differently on issues of privacy. This goal was achieved in Section V through a broad carve out (“these Best Practices are not designed to apply to newsgatherers and news reporting organizations”) and an affirmative statement on the importance of a free press.
The NAB had another victory with the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit's ruling ordering the FCC to update media ownership rules and vacating its prohibition on joint sales agreements (JSA) between television broadcasters. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler reacted by essentially proposing the same prohibitions as it had before the court’s ruling. NAB’s Wharton replied “we’re disappointed that Chairman Wheeler continues to ignore the will of both the courts and Congress by proposing to retain broadcast ownership rules that long ago outlived their usefulness. It is shocking that regulators who bless mammoth mergers like AT&T/DirecTV and Charter/Time Warner Cable would still bar common ownership of two TV stations or broadcast/newspaper combinations in a local market. Ultimately, NAB hopes the five-member FCC, Congress or the courts end this indefensible FCC charade, and that meaningful ownership reform is adopted for the benefit of the millions of Americans reliant on free and local broadcasting.” We are hopeful that continued pressure on the FCC will eliminate these archaic restrictions that no longer reflect realities in the media landscape.
As your elected NAB radio board representative, I welcome your comments and concerns anytime – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org