The effort to craft the first major revision of the Communications Act in 18 years could be interesting but probably will end up to be a politically factious mess. House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said today that he plans hearings and studies for “a multi-year effort to examine our nation’s communications laws and update them for the Internet era.” Upton was joined in a Google Hangout announcement by Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., who says that they “plan to look at the Communications Act and all of the changes that have been made piecemeal over the last 89 years and ask the simple question: ‘Is this working for today’s communications marketplace?’” For example, he says that cable operators complained to him that they have to pay franchise fees but Netflix doesn’t. The GOP leaders didn’t include Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who’s also on the Communications subcommittee — and says he helped to write “every major telecommunications statute for the past three decades.” He urged his colleagues to proceed “with great care and attention to detail” and “in a bipartisan manner.”
A minor victory this afternoon for those who’d like to see television stations disclose on the Web the same information about political ad sales that they already have to make public on paper. The U.S. Court of …
After years of eschewing the public spotlight, Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen showed today at a congressional hearing that he hasn’t lost his keen debating skills. He skewered broadcast stations for acting as “a government-sponsored monopoly” when demanding higher fees from pay TV providers under the federal retransmission consent rules — and withdrawing programming when negotiations break down. “The problem is only getting worse — with more blackouts and more broadcaster abuses,” he told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology’s hearing today on the Future of Video. ”From where we sit, the broadcasters cling to the status quo instead of meeting consumer demand and embracing new technologies and business models.” Ergen added that while stations demand payments for pay TV carriage of their over-the-air signals, their commitment to localism “has gone down” — for example many stations have begun to share newscasts. “The retransmission consent regime is a prime example of an outdated government policy in need of an overhaul by Congress and the FCC.” One way to fix things, he says, would be to allow pay TV companies to import signals from network affiliates in other markets when negotiations with the local station break down. “Then you have the free market system working.”
WASHINGTON, DC — Gordon H. Smith, President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, has agreed to a five-year contract extension that keeps him at the helm of NAB through 2016, NAB Joint Board Chairman Paul Karpowicz announced today.
Smith, 59, joined NAB in November 2009 and oversees the advocacy efforts of thousands of local radio and television stations across America. He is a former two-term United States Senator from Oregon (1996-2008) and was a successful entrepreneur before launching his career in politics.
This is a big deal in Washington: The FCC desperately wants TV station owners to give up some of the airwave spectrum they use, so it can be redeployed for wireless broadband. The powerful National Association of Broadcasters is pushing back, skeptical that stations will be pressured to sell. But a report this morning from RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank says it would be smart business for a lot of independently owned stations to go ahead and make a deal with the feds. He found several cases where stations recently were sold for less than the owner could have received by accepting just 25% of what wireless providers are paying for spectrum. That means it’s possible “these stations could see their values rise, based solely on the value of their spectrum.” Major network owners including CBS, News Corp, and Disney also could benefit if they agree to auction off some of the airwaves they use — but the value might not be worth the risk just yet. Bank figures that CBS’ share price would rise 1.6% if it sold half of its spectrum
Broadcasters and Pay TV distributors will have to make sure that ads have the same average volume as the shows they accompany according to the rules the FCC adopted today. It will take a year before the regulations that implement a congressional mandate — the 2010 Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (also known as the CALM Act) – take effect. When they do, consumers shouldn’t have to lunge for the remote control to avoid volume spikes for sales pitches. While the order sounds straightforward, the industry had big concerns: Cable and satellite companies warned the FCC that they might not be able to monitor all of the channels they carry. To deal with that, the FCC says the distributors are off the hook if they can get channels to certify that their ads comply with the rules. Large pay TV providers will be subject to spot checks every two years; regulators will investigate smaller operators if there’s a pattern of complaints. In addition, pay TV and broadcast companies urged commissioners to
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is prepared to junk federal rules that limit companies from owning TV and radio stations in the same market — and go half way in doing the same for TV stations and newspapers. He’s circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would wipe out the TV-newspaper restriction in the 20 largest markets, trade magazine Broadcasting and Cable reports citing “a person familiar with the document.” But it would keep a test that could block a combo in smaller markets if it would result in less local news, less diversity of voices, or too much concentration of economic power. Genachowski’s proposal sounds a lot like the standard that former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican, pushed through in 2008. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit overturned those rules this past July, saying that Martin hadn’t given the public enough time to weigh in on them. Public interest advocates who want to preserve cross-ownership restrictions applauded the court decision. Newspaper and broadcast owners say that mergers are needed to preserve local newsrooms as their companies compete against a massive number of national news competitors on cable TV and the Internet. As part of the rulemaking process, the FCC will ask whether stations skirt the ownership limits
Should The FCC Crack Down On TV Stations That Cooperate On News, Ad Sales, And Retransmission Deals?
We’re starting to see some interesting filings at the FCC as it prepares to revamp media ownership rules — and that includes a letter sent today by a strange-bedfellows coalition of Dish Network; Time Warner Cable; activist group Free Press; the Newspaper Guild; and the American Cable Association which represents small and mid-sized operators. They’re united by a concern about TV stations that “cannot lawfully merge under the FCC’s local television rules (but) are nonetheless consolidating their core operations, staff and news production.” The group says that in cities including Denver, Peoria, and Syracuse, “TV stations have consolidated their newsrooms and newsgathering by merging their facilities and laying off dozens of journalists, crew members and other staff. The resulting news product is essentially a re-run of stories produced by another station, which reduces content diversity in terms of viewpoints, substance and issue coverage.” The writers also complain about cases where TV stations cooperatively sell ads — and negotiate retransmission consent agreements. That troubles pay TV providers and “it is a prevalent practice with at least 36 pairs of separately-owned Big 4 affiliated stations in 33 different markets, actually engaging in coordinated negotiations through use of a single (retransmission consent) bargaining representative.” The group wants the FCC to “take account of how the reduction in local broadcast competition harms local communities and markets, and to ensure that the neither the substance nor the goals of the media ownership rules are thwarted.”
The National Association of Broadcasters issued a quick response: “Evidence shows that when a strong local TV station shares resources with another broadcaster, the result is the creation of more local news, weather and sports,” spokesman Dennis Wharton says.