A full list of Federal issues and concerns facing broadcasters in Michigan:

FCC Ends Main Studio Rule

The FCC eliminated its broadcast main studio rule: a requirement that a broadcast station maintain a main studio in close proximity to its city of license that is open to the public and staffed during normal business hours. The action came on a 3-2 vote with the Democrats, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn dissenting.

Main Studio rule is nearly 80 years old, and was implemented to facilitate input from community members and the station’s participation in community activities. The commission’s new order retains the requirement that stations maintain a local or toll-free telephone number to ensure consumers have ready access to their local stations.

In ending the rule, the FCC said it “recognizes that today the public can access information via broadcasters’ online public file, and stations and community members can interact directly through alternative means such as e-mail, social media, and the telephone.” Given this, the agency found that requiring broadcasters to maintain a main studio is outdated and unnecessarily burdensome.  The rule change will be effective January 8, 2018.

Bill to Help Radio stations in Spectrum Repack Introduced

Congressmen Bill Flores (R-TX) and Gene Green (D-TX) introduced the Radio Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3685). This legislation establishes a dedicated fund to help subsidize FM stations that are broadcasting from 678 television towers which are scheduled to be will be repacked as a result of the spectrum auction.

The bill doesn’t set any specific dollar amount that would be allocated in the fund; however, it gives broadcasters until 2022 to recoup any expenses. The bill would also require the FCC to “expedite consideration and approval” of applications filed from broadcasters seeking to obtain special temporary authority to continue broadcasting during the repack.” Status: H.R. 3685 has been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Station Spectrum Repacking Information

The National Association of Broadcasters has set up an information page for the TV stations that will be affected by the repacking process.

NAB.org/TVStationMoves provides a searchable database of the stations that will have to move, the phase or timeline in which the move will have to take place and the number of viewers affected. The database can be searched either by Congressional district or by State.

MI Senators Support Preserving Ad Deductibility

Senators Stabenow and Peters Sign Senate Ad Deductibility Letter

The MAB engaged our members to reach out to Senators Stabenow and Peters and ask them to sign on to the Senate letter in favor of keeping advertising deduction as a necessary and ordinary business expense.

We are glad to report that both Senators signed on to the letter which states in part that “For the life of the tax code, advertising has been treated the same as all other regularly occurring business expenses, such as employee wages, rent, utilities, and office supplies. Any measure that would tax advertising – and therefore make it more expensive – cannot be justified as a matter of tax or economic policy. Moreover, such a proposal would run counter to a major goal of tax reform we can all agree on – simplifying the tax code.”

The MAB would like to thank all of our members for their grassroots advocacy on this issue!

Court Strikes Down 2016 Federal Overtime Rule

On August 31, 2017 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas overturned the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2016 overtime rule, which altered the salary level needed for executive, administrative, and professional employees to be deemed exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. While this court ruling is likely to end the principal litigation over the rule, the DOL is still examining whether to adjust the salary level.

For the time being, executive, administrative, and professional employees will generally continue to qualify for an exemption from the federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements if they are compensated on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week ($23,660 annually) and perform certain job duties outlined by the DOL. However, on July 26, 2017, the DOL published a request for information (RFI) seeking new public input on whether to revise the salary level for the executive, administrative, and professional employee exemptions, a move which may be a precursor to a new rule altering those exemptions.

Lawmakers Introduce “The Honest Ads Act”

Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) drafted legislation to increase transparency in online political advertising. The measure called “The Honest Ads Act” attempts to align rules for online advertising with those broadcast on television and radio.

The Act would require online companies like Google and Facebook to include disclosures identifying the purchasers of ads and maintain a “public file” of ads about candidates and issues of national importance. The new rules would apply to any entity that spends a cumulative $500 on online ads during an election cycle.

The Viewer Protection Act

U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), unveiled a draft bill, the Viewer Protection Act, which empowers the FCC to fully protect both broadcast viewers and mobile broadband users who may be affected by the upcoming broadcast incentive auction by funding viewer education efforts. The bill also allocates an additional $1 billion emergency fund for broadcasters, and directs the FCC to create a repacking plan within six months of the conclusion of the auction.

Specifically, the Viewer Protection Act would:

  1. Fund a viewer education effort: The agency would work with to educate consumers about how to protect their TV signal after the incentive auction. The Viewer Protection Act would fully fund this effort modeled after the successful efforts during the Digital TV transition.
  2. Create an Emergency Fund to Keep Viewers’ TVs from Going Dark: The Viewer Protection Act would create a $1 billion emergency fund that the FCC could access only if viewers are at risk of losing their broadcast signal.
  3. Give Consumers Access to Faster Mobile Broadband as Quickly as Possible: The Viewer Protect Act would direct the FCC to create a repacking plan within six months of the conclusion of the Incentive Auction.
  4. This plan will map out how remaining TV stations will be repacked after the auction so broadband consumers can reap the benefits of the auction as soon as possible. The FCC will also be given limited flexibility to modify the repacking schedule if necessary to protect broadcast viewers.

NAB Asks FCC to Act on Translators, Ownership Rule

The NAB’s Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Rick Kaplan met with the FCC Chief of Staff Matthew Berry to discuss translators and media ownership rules.

The NAB says interference issues between full-power FMs and translators “remains a persistent problem” and Kaplan petitioned the FCC to adopt the proposals submitted by the NAB group to “facilitate efficient disposition” of the conflicts. Most notably, the NAB suggests the Commission give operators the ability to relocate translators anywhere on the FM dial as a “minor change” to a facility—instead of only to an adjacent or IF-related channel—to resolve interference complaints. Additionally, since the FCC planning to revisit its media ownership rules, Kaplan made a case for a petition which seeks to change how ownership caps are calculated in embedded markets.

FCC Considers Dropping Paper Copy Rule

The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that eliminates rules requiring broadcast and cable entities to keep paper copies of FCC rules. Currently, the FCC has rules that require low power TV, TV and FM translator, TV and FM booster stations, cable television relay station (CARS) licensees to maintain paper copies of commission rules. In announcing the NPRN, the FCC said: “Because the rules are now readily accessible online, many parties believe that the paper copy requirements are outdated and unnecessarily burdensome. While regulated entities still would be required to be familiar with the rules governing their services, elimination of the paper copy requirements would give them flexibility to determine how to fulfill that obligation.”

This rulemaking is part of the Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative that the FCC launched “to reduce unnecessary regulation that can stand in the way of competition and innovation in media markets.”