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NAB Asks Court To Block FCC Decision To Bar TV Station Joint Sales Agreements

NAB logoThe broadcast industry lobby group told the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC that the FCC had no basis for deciding in March to block a station from selling ads for others in the same market. As a result it allegedly was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion” as well as illegal. The 3-2 party line vote on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal was predicated on a view that many, if not most, of these deals violate the public interest. Joint Sales Agreements “have been used to skirt existing [media ownership] rules to create market power that stacks the deck against small companies seeking to enter the broadcast business,” Wheeler said. The Justice Department also said that its investigations “have revealed that these ‘sidecars’ often exercise little or no competitive independence from the other station.”

The problem, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, is that regulators never defined the public interest. The FCC should have done that in a congressionally mandated quadrennial review of ownership rules that was supposed to have taken place in 2010, but didn’t. A ”fact-based examination of today’s marketplace would show that FCC ownership restrictions against free and local broadcasters are outdated in a world of national pay TV giants,” EVP Dennis Wharton says. “These rules – some of which have not been altered since 1975 – place broadcasters at a competitive disadvantage as we strive to continue delivering news, entertainment and lifeline … Read More »

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NAB Chief Wants Federal Regulators To Create A National Broadcast Plan

Gordon SmithNational Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith offered a healthy plate of red meat to his constituents today as he urged officials to ensure that TV and radio have the same kinds of regulatory protections often provided for broadband and other media. “On one hand, government can treat us as if we are dinosaurs and does what it can to encourage TV stations to go out of business,” he told broadcasters at the kickoff of the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas. “On the other hand, the FCC says we are so important and powerful that two TV stations can’t share advertising in the same market, while it’s OK for multiple cable, satellite and telecommunications operators to do so. Which is it? Too powerful or irrelevant? It can’t be both.” He says it’s only fair to develop coordinated policies to give the industry as much support as the government offers for cable and wireless providers. ”Why doesn’t the FCC have a National Broadcast Plan?” he says.NABshow_logo“Why is there no focus to foster innovation and investment in broadcasting to ensure our business continues to be a world leader alongside our broadband industries? Where is the FCC’s gusto and determination to embrace broadcasting’s values and public service responsibilities?” Read More »

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NAB Tells FCC: Local TV Business Is Weakening

This isn’t what you usually hear from broadcast execs — and it certainly doesn’t jibe with the industry’s message to Wall Street. But the National Association of Broadcasters NAB logotakes the bearish view in a new filing at the FCC that responds to a Justice Department attack on arrangements that enable a TV station to handle ad sales, programming, and other chores for rivals in the same market. The FCC is poised to restrict these widely used deals. That would be dangerous, the NAB says, because stations need help: “Largely as a result of marketplace fragmentation and the growing number of options for advertisers (including online), television broadcasters’ revenues and profits have fallen significantly,” it says. Ad sales were lower in 2012 than they were in 2004, and a forecast from SNL Kagan shows that they “will not reach the level of revenues earned in 2004 until the year 2020.” Broadcast lobbyists are singing the blues to counter the Justice Department’s claim in a recent filing that shared services agreements make stations less competitive and diverse. Although the deals are supposed to protect both goals, by propping up weak stations, “our investigations have revealed that these ‘sidecars’ often exercise little or no competitive independence from the other station.” But the NAB says the argument lacks “direct evidence” and its proposal “would harm consumers and the public interest.” The collaborations “have become vital to local station operations.” They need economies … Read More »

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Are Broadcasters Or The FCC To Blame For Problems With TV Localism And Diversity?

The FCC is hearing both views this week following Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s recent proposal to restrict local TV joint service arrangements. Nomination Hearing Of Thomas Wheeler To Be Chairman Of The FCCNational Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith came out swinging with a charge that the regulators are making it hard for broadcasters to promote localism and diversity — objectives called for in the Communications Act —  according to notes publicly filed today of his visit yesterday with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. He says that Wheeler lacks solid evidence and “makes sweeping generalizations” that are “arbitrary and capricious” about the problems that arise when a station handles ad sales, programming, or retransmission consent negotiations for a rival in the same market. These collaborations “greatly foster localism and diversity,” Smith says. He says that Wheeler’s proposals “use a sledgehammer where a scalpel, if anything, is far more appropriate.” Smith also called it “manifestly unfair” to bar TV stations from collaborating when it “permits the cable industry to do so.” All in all, the NAB chief says, the FCC is “not doing everything it could to actually promote localism and diversity.”

Others are pressing regulators to hang tough. There’s already “ample record evidence” showing that station collaborations hurt the public, Andrew Jay Schwartzman and Angela Campbell of Georgetown Law School said in their visit with Clyburn yesterday. “If particular arrangements would serve the public interest … the Commission can and should craft … Read More »

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House Committees Begin Process To Shape An “Internet Era” Communications Act

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. Television production technology conceptHouse 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.” Read More »

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Chase Carey Added To NAB Show Opener

By | Monday November 26, 2012 @ 9:15am PST

WASHINGTON–(November 26, 2012)–The National Association of Broadcasters announced today that News Corporation President and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey will participate in a question-and-answer session with NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith during the 2013 NAB Show opening event, sponsored by Blackmagic Design, Monday, April 8 in Las Vegas. The session will also include a “State of the Broadcast Industry” address by Smith.

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Court Rejects Broadcaster Effort to Delay Web Disclosure Of Political Ad Info

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 Appeals in D.C. rejected a request by the National Association of Broadcasters to stay rules that the FCC adopted in April requiring the top four stations in the 50 largest markets to send their political ad data to the regulators for online posting. The rules are on track to take effect August 2. (The FCC wants all other stations to comply starting July 2014.) The NAB appealed the decision this month saying that TV stations will be “at a distinct disadvantage to their non-broadcast competitors” if they have to post the ad rates online after a sale. The damage to stations’ sales efforts would be so great that it “outweighs the benefits” to people who want to know who’s spending how much on TV to influence their opinions in an election. But the court said, without explanation, that the NAB ”has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review.” That pleased Free Press, an activist group that’s an intervenor in the case. “This first round victory goes to transparency and the public, and we’ll continue to advocate for better access to this already public information,” Senior Policy Counsel Corie Wright says. NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton says that while … Read More »

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Broadcasters Tell Court That Political Ad Rules Will Lead To “Irreparable Harm”

National Association Of Broadcasters Political AdsThe National Association of Broadcasters came out swinging in an emergency motion today at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. The trade group wants the court to stay an FCC ruling that requires stations to put on the Web information about political ad sales that they already must make public on paper. The NAB says that TV stations will be “at a distinct disadvantage to their non-broadcast competitors” if they have to post the ad rates online after a sale. It would especially help cable and satellite providers — who aren’t subject to the FCC rule — to adjust ad prices to win business from broadcasters. Indeed, the filing says, the damage to stations’ ad sales efforts would be so great that it “outweighs the benefits” to people who want to know who’s spending how much on TV to influence their opinions in an election. In April, the FCC adopted its new rules requiring the top four stations in the 50 largest markets to send their political ad data to the regulators for online posting. The rules were published last week in the Federal Register, putting them on track to take effect in early August. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said at the NAB’s annual confab in April that opposing the online disclosure plan is “against technology, against transparency and against journalism.” Public interest and free speech … Read More »

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Dish Network Founder Blasts Broadcasters Over Retransmission Consent Tactics

Charlie Ergen Dish NetworkAfter 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.” Read More »

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Gordon Smith Agrees To Remain NAB Chief Through 2016

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.

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Broadcasters Ask The Court To Block Aereo, Alleging Copyright Infringement

By | Thursday March 1, 2012 @ 4:02pm PST

UPDATE, 6:35 PM: Aereo says that it will defend itself against the broadcasters’ suits. “Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use,” the company says. New technologies have “made access to television easier and better for consumers….Aereo looks forward to its upcoming product launch as well as a prompt resolution of these cases.”

PREVIOUS, 4:02 PM: It didn’t take long for several companies with New York television stations — including PBS, Fox Television, Univision, and WPIX — to challenge the new firm that wants to sell Web streams of the broadcasters’ over-the-air transmissions. (UPDATE: ABC, CBS and NBC Universal also filed a complaint today against Aereo along with a statement: “This service is based on the illegal use of our content. Beyond that, we believe the complaint speaks for itself.”) Aereo said last month that it would launch its $12 a month subscription service in the Big Apple on March 14. In addition to retransmitting TV signals, Aereo — backed in part by Barry Diller — would offer customers the ability to record and watch shows on demand, much like they would with a DVR. But the station owners asked the U.S. District Court in New York to issue an injunction, alleging that the new business “free rides on (the stations’) substantial investment in their broadcasting infrastructure.” The rights that … Read More »

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Garry Marshall Set For NAB Hall Of Fame

By | Friday January 27, 2012 @ 12:59pm PST

Washington, DC — The National Association of Broadcasters announced today that Garry Marshall, legendary Hollywood actor, director, writer and producer, will be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame during the 2012 NAB Show Television Luncheon, sponsored by Wide Orbit, on Monday, April 16. NAB Show, held in Las Vegas, is the annual conference and expo for professionals who create, manage and distribute entertainment across all platforms.

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NAB Keynotes For Bruce Rosenblum And Ben Silverman

By | Tuesday January 17, 2012 @ 9:28am PST

Washington, DC — Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group and newly sworn in chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and Ben Silverman, founder and chairman of multimedia studio Electus, will speak at the upcoming 2012 NAB Show, the annual conference and expo for professionals who create, manage and distribute entertainment across all platforms. The 2012 NAB Show takes place April 14-19, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bruce Rosenblum will be a featured 2012 NAB Show Super Session speaker, addressing attendees from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17. Ben Silverman will deliver the keynote address to the Disruptive Media Conference at NAB Show on Tuesday, April 17 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.

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Analyst: It Makes Sense For Many Small TV Stations To Auction Their Airwave Spectrum

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 Read More »

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Is Congress Prepared To Deregulate Television?

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) apparently think so based on the cable- and satellite-friendly bill they submitted today called the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act. It would end retransmission consent — the rules that require pay TV providers to negotiate deals with local broadcasters to carry their programming. It doesn’t stop there: The proposal also would end restrictions that enable syndicators to sell shows exclusively into different markets. And it would scrap rules that bar cable companies from importing network programming from out-of-market stations when they can’t strike deals with local broadcasters. DeMint used the trendy magic words — “job creation” — to support the bill. To promote innovation, he says, “we need to stop issuing new regulations and instead remove and modernize rules written to address the last century’s business and regulatory models.” DirecTV agrees, saying that the proposal would “eliminate byzantine regulations that shackle innovation, competition and consumer choice.”

But when it comes to wielding political clout, the bill’s supporters probably are no match for the National Association of Broadcasters which says it “respectfully” opposes the legislation. “Current law ensures access to quality local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings. The proposed changes to the Communications Act strike at the core of free market negotiations and broadcast localism, thereby threatening a community-based information and entertainment medium that serves tens of millions of Americans each day.”

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FCC Tries To Control The Volume On Obnoxiously Loud TV Ads

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 Read More »

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FCC Chief Wants To Ease TV Station Cross Ownership With Radio And Newspapers

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 Read More »

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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. Read More »

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Study: Commercial TV And Radio Added $1.17 Trillion To GDP Last Year

Television executives plead poverty when they explain why they need cash from cable companies that retransmit the programs stations broadcast for free. But the industry seems to make a miraculous recovery when the topic changes to the FCC’s effort to coax stations to give up their airwave spectrum so it can be redeployed for wireless broadband. A new study commissioned by the National Association of Broadcasters says that commercial TV and radio stations accounted for $1.17 trillion of last year’s Gross Domestic Product. Only about $59.3 billion of that is from direct spending on TV and radio — the rest comes from estimates of the ripple effects and stimulative effects stations had on the overall economy. The study also says that TV and radio accounted for 2.5 million jobs. Here, too, only 305,230 were directly tied to TV and radio companies. Others were in industries that benefited from broadcasters including advertising, telecommunications, public utilities, manufacturing and retail. The study, prepared by Woods & Poole Economics, says that commercial TV and radio should see revenues grow through 2015.

The NAB makes no secret of its agenda: “Decision-makers now debating spectrum policies need to be cognizant of the millions of people and thousands of businesses reliant on the unparalleled impact of local TV and radio for economic survival,” says NAB chief Gordon Smith.

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