State of Michigan issues and concerns facing broadcasters:

MAB Urges Governor Snyder to Reject Microsoft’s White Space Proposal

The MAB reached out to Governor Snyder and members of the Michigan Congressional Delegation urging the lawmakers to reject Microsoft’s attempts to secure free TV spectrum for a nationwide channel (aka ‘white space’) to use for unlicensed devices. Microsoft is asserting that it is urgent that the FCC reserve a vacant UHF white space channel in every market nationwide before the repacking is finalized. The National Association of Broadcasters also (NAB) filed comments with the FCC stating that a Microsoft proposal that the company be granted access to 18 MHz of TV spectrum for unlicensed use should be denied as it will cause direct and immediate harm to translators and low power television stations displaced by the spectrum repack following the incentive auction.

In even a best-case repacking scenario, the capacity simply does not exist to successfully accommodate all of these broadcast television station moves. By design, the incentive auction is already shrinking the broadcast television band and there will not be enough spectrum to keep all broadcast television translators and LPTV stations on the air. This disproportionately harms diverse, niche, and rural broadcast viewers that are served by translators and LPTVs.

Police Body Camera Bill Signed by Gov. Snyder

Governor Snyder (R) signed HB 4427 into law (now Public Act 85 of 2017), which prohibits public release of footage from police body cameras if the footage was taken in a ‘private place’ such as a person’s home. The new law also request police departments to create rules for disclosure and retention of audio and video recordings from body cameras worn by police officers. The bill was unanimously approved by both chambers of Michigan Legislature.

Recordings also will be kept private during ongoing criminal or internal investigations but only for listed reasons such as public disclosure interfering with law enforcement proceedings or invading personal privacy. Body camera recordings retained as part of civil lawsuits will not be considered public records.

Drone Legislation Update

Drones are becoming increasingly popular as a hobby and for commercial purposes and, as a result, Michigan State Legislature considered several bills that would create a ‘no drone zone.’ The MAB worked with lawmakers to include ‘news gathering exemption’ in the bill language that allows our members to use drones for news coverage to the extent allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The MAB also help draft legislation that would created a Drone Policy Task force that would develop statewide policy recommendations on the operation, use and regulation of drones in Michigan. The bill has now been signed by Governor Snyder into law. Under the newly created law, a member of the broadcasting industry will be appointed to serve on the legislative task force.

House Committee Approves Critical Infrastructure FOIA Exemption

Legislation exempting critical cybersecurity data from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was unanimously voted out of the Michigan House Communications and Technology Committee.

Under the bill, HB 4973, the state’s plans to protect its information technology infrastructure and any assessments of the plans or equipment would not be public information. Michigan State Police (MSP) testified in favor of the bill, stating that the legislation would help ensure private entities are reporting cybersecurity threats to the MSP and are not withholding cybersecurity incidents because the vulnerable information can be requested under FOIA. The bill now goes to the full House for action.

Governor Snyder Signs Super PAC Legislation

Legislation authorizing a candidate for state office to raise funds for Super PACs that can then spend those funds to help elect that candidate was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The new law allows candidates to raise money for Super PACs, unrestricted by donor limits that apply to candidate fundraising, that can then support them and oppose their opponents.

Opponents of the new law say that it makes meaningless the limits on how much PACs and individuals can contribute to candidates’ committees. The new law also prohibits coordination between an independent committee and a candidate on how the independent committee would spend money raised in support of a candidate. However, it would also allow a candidate or those working on behalf of a candidate to solicit money for the independent committee.

Free Speech Amendment Debate in House Committee

State Representative Jim Runestad (R-44) introduced House Joint Resolution P, which states that “THE LEGISLATURE MAY PROVIDE BY LAW FOR THE PROTECTION OF FREE SPEECH, EXPRESSION, AND ASSEMBLY RIGHTS AT PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION, WHICH SHALL SUPERSEDE ANY INCONSISTENT RESTRICTION PRESCRIBED BY A PUBLIC INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION.”

Representative Runestad also testified in Michigan House Oversight Committee that Michigan’s public universities do not care about protecting free speech and allow for the suppressing of speech on campuses. Joint Resolution P is a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature the power to overrule university and community college regulations on this issue.

Status: The committee did not act on the proposal at the meeting.