Reminder: FREE Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent Webinar Tuesday, August 22

This is a reminder that on Tuesday, August 22 from 2:00-3:15 p.m. (EDT), FHH carriage gurus Dan Kirkpatrick and Paul Feldman will present a FREE webinar entitled “Must-Carry and Retransmission Consent 2017.”

Free registration for the webinar is available here.

The industry faces an October 1, 2017 deadline requiring all full-power television stations to make elections between must-carry and retransmission consent for the next three-year period.

To help stations (and MVPDs) prepare for this deadline, the webinar will focus on a number of issues surrounding the election process, enforcement of must-carry rights, and negotiation of retransmission consent agreements.  The session will explain the rights and obligations of broadcasters and cable and satellite operators under the FCC’s rules, what has changed since the last round of must-carry/retransmission consent elections, potential pitfalls and hidden concerns regarding carriage, and what the future of carriage and program distribution may involve.

We will address the following questions, along with many others:

  • What should you consider before electing must-carry or retransmission consent?
  • What has changed in the three years since elections were last made?
  • What issues typically arise in retransmission consent negotiations?
  • What are the FCC’s “good faith” negotiation rules?
  • What changes may be coming to the program carriage marketplace that could affect retransmission consent negotiations?

Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions during the presentation.  Whether you are seeking must-carry rights to ensure that your station’s programming is seen by all viewers or a retransmission consent agreement to provide a vital revenue stream, this webcast will be must-see viewing for all TV broadcasters given the stakes involved and the complicated relations between cable and satellite companies, broadcasters, and program suppliers.

ETRS Form 1 Due August 28 for all EAS Participants; Requires Registration in FCC CORES System

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FCC have announced that a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) will take place on September 27, 2017, at 2:20 PM EDT.  As a precursor to this test, all EAS Participants (which includes most broadcast stations and cable and DBS operators) must file a “Form 1” in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) no later than August 28.  The Form 1 provides details on the participant’s location, service area, EAS equipment, and contact information.  In addition to the Form 1, each EAS participant must file a “day-of-test” ETRS Form 2 on September 27, and a post-test ETRS Form 3 no later than November 13, 2017. Continue Reading

Commercial Radio Stations Offered Opportunity to Extend Interim License with GMR

No sooner did we report an update on the dispute between the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and Global Music Rights (GMR), do we have another update to share.  Only this time, the update: (1) is less wonky/more practical, (2) is good news for commercial radio stations, and (3) requires action by affected stations. Continue Reading

RMLC Seeks PI; Attempts to Stay in PA, Avoid CA

(As end of GMR Interim License Period Approaches, fight over GMR’s refusal to deal with Pennsylvania radio stations has implications for others around the country)

We’ve written (and talked) plenty about the fight between the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) – which represents the interests of the commercial radio industry in negotiating licenses with performing rights organizations (“PROs”) to perform musical works – and Global Music Rights (GMR) – the newest PRO representing the owners of musical works (mainly publishers and songwriters).   Although GMR was originally founded in 2013, it really became a presence in late 2016 when negotiations with the RMLC broke down, exposing commercial radio stations around the country to potential copyright infringement lawsuits as of January 2017.

The RMLC ended up suing GMR in Pennsylvania (the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to be precise) in November 2016, alleging that the PRO had engaged in anticompetitive behavior that violated the Sherman Act (a key antitrust law in the United States).  The RMLC immediately filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction seeking, among other things, that GMR immediately grant licenses to commercial radio stations while fees are being negotiated.  GMR then followed suit (literally!) by suing the RMLC in GMR’s home state – California – just one month later, alleging that it was the RMLC, not GMR, who had committed antitrust violations by conspiring to lower music license pricing for radio stations.

Imminent danger of infringement suits against radio stations was avoided when the RMLC and GMR reached an interim license agreement in late December, whereby the RMLC dropped its request for preliminary injunction in exchange for: (1) GMR’s agreement it would not sue any commercial radio station before January 31, 2017 and (2) the offer to stations of an interim license agreement that would allow them to play GMR music over the air and online through September 30, 2017.   The underlying litigation about GMR’s anticompetitive behavior chugged along at a snail’s pace that often is characteristic of federal court cases.

While we heard a few complaints about the seemingly high rate of this interim license and some hiccups in actually getting the license signed and payments submitted, thing seem to have been proceeding more or less smoothly.  At least that’s how it appeared on the surface; under the water, well…let’s just say the fact that this happened during “Shark Week” isn’t lost on us. Continue Reading

How to Find Renewal – For Wireless Licenses

The FCC has rewritten the rules on renewing wireless radio licenses. Unlike renewing, say, a car registration, these require more than an application form and a check. The FCC also wants assurance that you have been using the license. Because if you haven’t, they want to let it expire and make room for somebody else.

IMPORTANT: This is only a summary. Licensees should consult the details of the new rules, available here, starting on page 49. Continue Reading

FCC Seeks Comment on Mid-Band Spectrum Opportunities

Being in “the middle” has historically gotten a bad rap. There’s the underappreciated “middle child,” and of course no one wants to be the unneeded “middle man.” This concept has even proven true with the Commission’s wireless spectrum policies. While the FCC has made it a priority to promote industry access to wireless spectrum, these policies have largely focused on the bands below 3.7 GHz and above 24 GHz, leaving those in between crying “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

The Commission finally seems poised to show some love to the “middle man” after years of promoting flexible access to the clowns to the left and the jokers to the right. The Commission released a Notice of Inquiry that seeks comment on potential opportunities for wireless broadband in spectrum bands between 3.7 and 24 GHz. Continue Reading

Independent Decisionmakers Reduce SESAC’s Commercial Radio License Rate by Tens of Millions of Dollars

(Stations will pay 60% less than old SESAC rate card)

While the fight between the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC) and Global Music Rights (GMR) has captured music licensing headlines in 2016 and 2017 (including here at Commlawblog), it has previously been RMLC v. SESAC which stole the show.  (Recall that until GMR came on the scene, SESAC was the only performing rights organization (“PRO”) not regulated by a rate court to deter it from charging excessive fees for its repertory.  This led SESAC to demand fees from music users that were vastly higher than what its market share would suggest.)

We’ve covered the RMLC v. SESAC fight as well, but for those who want to be spoon-fed, here’s a brief recap of what has happened over the last few years:

  • The litigation was settled in July 2015, with one of the settlement terms requiring the parties to submit to mandatory arbitration for the 2016-2018 term if they were unable to agree to rates on their own.

Continue Reading

Save the Date for Our FREE Must-Carry/Retransmission Consent Webinar

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 – 2:00-3:15 p.m. (EDT)

For all full power TV stations, October 1, 2017 is a critical deadline for electing between must-carry and retransmission consent for the next three years.

  • What should you consider before electing must-carry or retransmission consent?
  • What has changed in the three years since elections were last made?
  • What issues typically arise in retransmission consent negotiations?
  • What are the FCC’s “good faith” negotiation rules?
  • What changes may be coming to the program carriage marketplace that could affect retransmission consent negotiations?

Continue Reading

Last Nail in the PTFP Coffin?

(NTIA Proposes Formal End to Public Telecom Facilities Program)

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to repeal all of its regulations establishing and governing the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP).  The PTFP was a competitive grant program that helped public broadcasting entities, state and local governments, Native American Tribes, and nonprofit organizations to construct public television and radio stations.  However, as of Fiscal Year 2011, Congress stopped appropriating funds for PTFP.  As a result of the lack of funding, NTIA began to shut down the PTFP.  NTIA has not processed applications or awarded any grants under the PTFP since funding ceased, although it continued to monitor PTFP grants it awarded before Fiscal Year 2011. Continue Reading

Leggo Our Spectrum – The Auto Industry’s Win for Vehicular Radar

FCC Order Represents One More Step Towards Fully-Autonomous Vehicles

I’ve written on connected and autonomous vehicles in the past, including about an ongoing spectrum fight at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding use of spectrum set aside years ago for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications (specifically, for a technology called DSRC).

The FCC now has revised its rules to allow for new short-range vehicular radars that increasingly will be relied upon for automotive safety. While collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control systems are becoming common, newer systems using short-range radars can provide additional driver assistance such as lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, and detection of nearby vehicles and “objects,” including pedestrians and bicycles. (As a frequent bike commuter, this writer has an eye on any new technologies that would improve bicycle safety.) Continue Reading