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. The firm, founded in 1987, has invested …
The agency followed through today on an effort launched last month by then-Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn: It 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.
Listen 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.
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 “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.
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. “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.”
PTC Blasts ‘Family Guy’ For Jokes About Rape, Sexual Exploitation Of Kids, And “Internal Defrosting Of Frozen Hot Dogs”
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.”
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
UPDATED 5:34 PM: Comcast has issued a statement on the FCC’s decision. “We are disappointed that the FCC failed to constrain the Media Bureau’s overly broad construction of the News Neighborhooding Condition,” says Sena Fitzmaurice, the company’s VP Government Communications. “As it is currently being interpreted, the condition goes well beyond the express language of the FCC’s Comcast-NBCUniversal Order and what is justified by the evidence in that case. The FCC’s interpretation very likely will lead to significant and unwarranted burdens on us, our customers, and other programming networks. We are evaluating our options.”
PREVIOUSLY: Bloomberg TV prevailed on the main points in its multi-year dispute with Comcast, although it didn’t win everything it wanted. Regulators upheld an order from their Media Bureau last year that established Bloomberg’s right to be grouped with other news channels on the dials of Comcast’s cable systems in the 35 largest TV markets. The FCC decision hearkens to an agreement that Comcast made in 2011 when it was eager to win FCC approval for its deal to control NBCUniversal. The cable giant said it wouldn’t discriminate against competitors. Bloomberg TV said that’s exactly what Comcast did when it maintained the business news channel’s position far from CNBC — which Comcast acquired with the NBCU deal.