Will The FCC Allow AT&T To Go Ahead With Its “Sponsored Data” Plan?

“We’re ready to intervene,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week about the new AT&T plan that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates. Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCBut that’s short of a full-fledged commitment to deal with an issue that media and entertainment companies will closely monitor. The wireless carrier told an audience at the International CES confab that it will begin to let content providers pick up the tab for some of their 4G transmissions. It’s “similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for Internet commerce,” AT&T says. In theory, that could range from a studio paying data costs for mobile device users to watch a movie trailer — to ESPN or Netflix helping people to watch their programming. The idea is “a win-win for customers and businesses,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. Net neutrality advocates counter that AT&T’s plan would give well-funded industry giants a huge advantage over challengers in an environment where companies would effectively have to pay in order to reach mobile device users. “In addition to being a ripoff for both consumers and content creators, AT&T’s plan erects a massive barrier in front of anyone hoping to be the next big thing online,” says Public Knowledge Acting Co-President Michael Weinberg. Read More »

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Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Joins The Carlyle Group

By | Monday January 6, 2014 @ 8:09am PST

The revolving door continues to swing: Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will help the asset management firm invest in global technology, media, and telecom companies, The Carlyle Group announced today. Julius GenachowskiThe firm, founded in 1987, has invested … Read More »

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FCC Prepares To Eliminate Its TV Sports Blackout Rules

By | Wednesday December 18, 2013 @ 2:37pm PST

The agency followed through today on an effort launched last month by then-Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn: NFLTVIt released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that invites public comment before it eliminates the rules adopted in 1975 to help broadcasters and the NFL. They say that if a sports league requires a TV station to black out a game – usually a football game that isn’t sold out — then cable and satellite distributors can’t offer it in the community either. The sports industry has changed dramatically in the last 40 years…[and] the economic rationale underlying the sports blackout rules may no longer be valid,” the notice says. When the rules were adopted about 59% of the NFL’s regular season games were blacked out due to failure of the games to sell out. But the FCC observes that in 2011 just 6% were blacked out, and just in four cities: Buffalo, Cincinnati, San Diego, and Tampa Bay. Also, TV payments have become much more significant than gate receipts to most teams’ revenues. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media 62 – The Give Me 10 AMC Shares with My Popcorn Podcast

By | Friday December 6, 2013 @ 5:06pm PST

Deadline Big Media episode 62Listen to (and share) episode 62 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s financial editor talks with host David Bloom about growing interest in some corners of Washington D.C. about crafting new communications policies for the Internet age; AMC’s best concession deal in decades with a stock deal for its customers; a report that suggests breaking up the pay-TV bundle would “devastate” consumers and the oligopoly that dominates the industry; and new government efforts to measure the economy that say the country’s creative industries generated $915 billion in 2011, and what that might mean for new policies for Hollywood.

Deadline Big Media podcast 62 (.MP3 version)
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FCC Chairman Delays TV Spectrum Auction To Mid-2015

By | Friday December 6, 2013 @ 11:59am PST

You’re hearing a big sigh of relief from broadcasters today. New FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post that he wants to postpone the voluntary auction that will enable wireless broadband providers to use airwaves now controlled by TV stations. It originally was planned for 2014, but Wheeler says he believes fcc1__130401234319-200x182“we can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.” It’s easy to imagine that his decision was influenced by the troubled web rollout for the Affordable Care Act. “I have often defined the complexity of this multi-part simultaneous [auction] process as being like a Rubik’s cube,” Wheeler says. “As part of our auction system development, we will check and recheck the auction software and system components against the auction requirements, and under a variety of scenarios replicating real life conditions. … Only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested, will we start the auction.” Wheeler also has to make a controversial policy decision about whether the government should limit how much spectrum might go to wireless giants Verizon and AT&T. Read More »

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Tennis Channel Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Uphold FCC’s Program Carriage Ruling

By | Wednesday December 4, 2013 @ 7:35am PST

The independent pay TV service wants the justices to reverse decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC that overturned an FCC ruling last year. Tennis-Channel__120824220946-200x276Regulators said that Comcast had to take Tennis Channel off of an extra-fee sports tier so … Read More »

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FCC Chairman Calls Web Regulation A “Non-Starter,” But With Exceptions

Tom Wheeler gave students at Ohio State University a lesson in political savvy today in his first policy speech since he became FCC chairman last month. His address alternately preached the virtues of small government, and public interest advocacy — especially on the controversial question of the FCC’s role in regulating the Web. Tom Wheeler“What the Internet does is an activity where policy makers must be judiciously prudent and should not be involved,” he says. But the longtime industry lawyer and former lobbyist left the FCC a lot of wiggle room to advance what he calls the “Network Compact” to promote communications accessibility, interconnection, and public safety and security. His idea of accessibility “means the ability of [Internet] users to access all lawful content on a network,” he says — adding that’s why the FCC “adopted enforceable rules to preserve the Open Internet.” The FCC needs to be the public’s representative in a transition to what he calls “the fourth network revolution” following the development of the printing press, railroads, and the telegraph. The Internet “is not a law-free zone. It depends upon standards of conduct. And it depends on the ability of the government to intervene in the event of aggravated circumstances.” Read More »

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PTC Blasts ‘Family Guy’ For Jokes About Rape, Sexual Exploitation Of Kids, And “Internal Defrosting Of Frozen Hot Dogs”

By | Friday November 15, 2013 @ 8:00am PST

The FCC will get a mess of complaints about the November 10 episode of Fox’s animated Seth MacFarlane comedy Family Guy after Parents Television Council encouraged members today to file broadcast indecency complaints with the commission. PTC says it sprang into action because the episode contained explicit jokes about rape, molestation, sexual exploitation of children — and the “sexualized use of food and perverse ‘internal defrosting’ of frozen hot dogs.” PTC sent out word of the campaign this morning to the media, with a helpful partial transcript of the episode:

- Upset at being threatened by a bully and challenged to a fight, teenage Meg runs into the girl’s restroom. She finds pedophile Quagmire inside.

Meg: “What are you doing in here?”

Quagmire: “This is my base of operations.”

Quagmire’s phone beeps. Voice on phone: “Mr. Quagmire, the girl’s gym class will be in the showers in twenty minutes.”

- Quagmire recounts being bullied by a girl when he was in high school: “That was the beginning of a long, abusive relationship. It’s one thing if you put your penis inside-out in the safety of your own bedroom. But to have it done in the cafeteria? To this day, I can’t have sex with a woman against her will without thinking about rape.” Read More »

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FCC Chairman Tells Phone Companies To Unlock Wireless Devices

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 2:22pm PST

This should temporarily quiet those who feared that Tom Wheeler would be in the pocket of the wireless phone industry, which he used to represent. The new FCC chairman sent a letter today to CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade group, saying that “enough time has passed” and it’s time for service providers to unlock their devices “voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate.” He wants a “full unlocking rights policy” to appear in the CTIA Consumer Code “before the December holiday season.” The goal is to clear the way for consumers to use any mobile phone or tablet with any service provider. FCC staff have been working with CTIA to develop a new policy. The letter says the two sides now disagree on one thing: whether service providers should notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking, or simply unlock them, without a fee. “Absent the consumer’s right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell,” Wheeler writes.

Related: FCC Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules
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FCC Relaxes Foreign Ownership Rules

By | Thursday November 14, 2013 @ 9:52am PST

In new Chairman Tom Wheeler’s first open FCC meeting since his confirmation late last month, the commission today eased the rules on foreign ownership of broadcast stations. Dispensing with the old 25% cap, now overseas companies … Read More »

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FCC Slaps TBS with $25,000 Fine Over ‘Conan’ Promo Using Emergency Alert System Noises

By | Wednesday November 6, 2013 @ 1:26pm PST

An old Conan promo that simulated the nails-on-chalkboard sounds of the Emergency Alert System looks have cost TBS $25,000. The Federal Communications Commission this week alerted TBS it is slapping the cable network with a fine in that amount over a 2012 Conan promo it telecast that used the well-known sounds intended to warn viewers of national emergencies.

The FCC — the government agency charged with fining those who misuse the distinctive EAS sounds — has given Turner notice of the fine for “the transmission of false distress signals,” unless it can dissuade the commission  within 30 days.

The FCC this past February launched an investigation into a viewer complaint about a 2012 promo for TBS’s Conan O’Brien late-night show. Turner admitted, the FCC said, that it produced and distributed a promotion, for use prior to April 26, 2012, that included a “sound effect” in part derived from an online source, which the network insisted was not part of the actual EAS code, but did include a prerecorded “sound burst” followed by a “bars and tone” sound. Turner “admits that the promotion was not made in connection with an actual national, state or local emergency or authorized test of the EAS,” the FCC said. Turner also argued the promo was produced within such a “tight timeframe” that the production team never submitted it for S&P review. Since May of ’12, all promos for Conan’s show have undergone S&P scrutiny, TBS pledged, according to the FCC.

Turner declined comment on Wednesday. Read More »

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Tom Wheeler Restructures FCC’s Leadership After Being Sworn In As Chairman

By | Monday November 4, 2013 @ 8:01am PST

I’m stunned by some of the appointments Tom Wheeler just announced as part of his plan to “hit the ground running.” He snagged Public Knowledge co-founder and CEO Gigi Sohn — one of the smartest advocates in the public interest community — to be Special Counsel for External Affairs. (Public Knowledge says that VP Michael Weinberg and COO Brooke Hunter will become Acting Co-Presidents.) The corporate community also has a tested ally at the new FCC with Philip Verveer, a longtime communications and antitrust lawyer who’ll be Senior Counsel. Verveer and his wife, Melanne, are long-time pals of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “With critical work to be accomplished for the American people and the Internet becoming ever more important in the lives of consumers and businesses across the nation, this team provides an excellent mix of governmental, private-sector and public-interest expertise,” Wheeler says. “They will join the many talented and dedicated professionals of the FCC, as we work to continue serving the public interest during an era of great technological change.”

Here’s the full list of changes from the FCC: Read More »

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FCC To Consider Eliminating Its TV Sports Blackout Rules

By | Friday November 1, 2013 @ 2:29pm PDT

The FCC enacted the rules in 1975 to help broadcasters and the NFL: Regulators say that if a sports league requires a TV station to black out a game – usually a football match that isn’t sold out — then cable and satellite distributors can’t offer it in the community either. But that may not serve the public interest “at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games,” Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn says today to explain why she circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to possibly scrap the rules. How much impact would that have? Possibly little. It wouldn’t prevent sports leagues, broadcasters and pay TV providers from “privately negotiating agreements to black out certain sports events,” she says. Indeed, the FCC notes on its website that the rules are “rarely involved in the sports blackouts you may have experienced” because they’re almost all due to contract terms between sports leagues and distributors.

Related: NFL Forcing Orlando TV Viewers To Watch Losing Jaguars
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Tom Wheeler Confirmed As FCC Chairman By Senate

By | Tuesday October 29, 2013 @ 4:56pm PDT

Just hours after Sen. Ted Cruz pulled his hold on the nomination today, the Senate unanimously confirmed Tom Wheeler as the next chair of the FCC. The GOP senator from Texas had put a hold on the nomination under the premise he objected to Democrat Wheeler’s vague response to questions about whether the FCC should require TV stations and cable operators to disclose the identities of political advertisers. On Tuesday, Cruz said he’s met with Wheeler and discussed the issue to his satisfaction. Nonetheless, it was a confirmation a long time coming. President Obama picked the former cable and mobile phone industry lobbyist in May to replace Julius Genachowski as chairman. At the time Obama said he hoped for “a speedy confirmation process.” He didn’t get that wish but he did eventually get his guy. Read More »

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Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman, Episode 55

By | Friday October 18, 2013 @ 2:14pm PDT

Listen to (and share) episode 55 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. In this special edition of the podcast, Deadline’s executive business editor talks with Harvard Business School Professor Anita Elberse about her new book, Blockbusters: Hitmaking, Risktaking And The Big Business Of Entertainment, and what it means for making movies in Hollywood these days. David also talks with host David Bloom about how much longer the big bull run for media stocks can continue; a sudden hiccup in the confirmation of a new FCC chairman; and where Hulu might be headed under its just-named CEO as it considers taking on Netflix.

Deadline Big Media, Episode 55 (MP3 format)
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Ted Cruz Blocks Senate’s FCC Confirmations

By | Thursday October 17, 2013 @ 12:58pm PDT

The Republican senator from Texas has put a hold on the nomination of Tom Wheeler as the new chairman of the FCC, stopping the confirmation process that had been on the fast-track as late as last night. Ted … Read More »

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FCC Stops The Clock On Deal Reviews

By | Tuesday October 1, 2013 @ 7:20am PDT

Here’s where media companies will feel the impact of the federal government shutdown most immediately and, for now, acutely. The FCC said this morning that it has suspended the 180-day clock it informally gives itself to determine whether pending … Read More »

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Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman, Episode 52

By | Friday September 27, 2013 @ 4:37pm PDT

Listen to (and share) episode 52 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman. Deadline’s executive business editor talks with host David Bloom about a proposed FCC rule that may derail the recent TV station gold rush; the very different rush for Apple’s new gold iPhones and all those other colors; themes and memes out of the big Goldman-Sachs investor conference and Blackberry’s really bad quarter and plans to go private with a buyout from minority shareholder Fairfax Holdings.

Deadline Big Media, Episode 52 (MP3 format)
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What Could Happen To Media Companies If The Federal Government Shuts Down?

By | Friday September 27, 2013 @ 3:22pm PDT

Anyone who does business with the FCC had better watch out. Most of the agency’s operations will be put on hold Tuesday unless lawmakers can agree on a spending bill for the fiscal year that begins October 1. A deal looks unlikely after the Senate passed a continuing resolution today that stripped out provisions in the House version that seek to defund the Affordable Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare). House Speaker John Boehner says he won’t accept the Senate’s bill. An impasse would force the government to shut non-essential services, and that would hit the media industry hardest at the FCC. The agency said today that 98% of its 1,754 employees would be furloughed. Depending on how long things drag out, the agency might have to postpone the October 15-29 window for those who want to apply for low power FM radio licenses. Work would also stop to approve TV station deals including Gannett’s $1.5B acquisition of Belo and Tribune’s $2.7B purchase of Local TV.
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