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FCC

FCC Fines Journal for Airing Car Ads as ‘Special Reports’ on KTNV

ktnv croppedThe Federal Communications Commission today announced its Enforcement Bureau has fined Journal Broadcast Corp., owner Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV, $115,000 for violating the Commission’s Sponsorship Identification Rule.

According to the FCC, KTNV aired “Special Reports” in 2009 that were actually paid ads for car dealers without disclosing the reports were paid for.

“Broadcasters are not allowed to deceive the public by presenting commercial announcements or other paid programming in the guise of news or editorial content,” Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau said. “Transparency is especially crucial in a situation like this one where a pseudo news report invites viewers to rely on their perception of the station’s independence and objectivity when, in fact, the message has been bought and paid for by an undisclosed third party.” Read more

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FCC Commissioner Calls Petition to Ban Word ‘Redksins’ From Broadcast Meritless

fcc sealFederal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai told an audience at The Media Institute Awards banquet Tuesday night, he disagrees with recent efforts to ban broadcasters from using the word “Redskins” when referring to the Washington, D.C. NFL team.

Pai said he worried TV stations could be fined and radio station’s could have their licenses revoked if they “accurately” report the score of game involving the team.

“If the FCC took these steps, we would be squelching public debate about an issue of public concern,” said Pai. “We would be standing in the way of media outlets reporting the news. And we would be prohibiting speech simply because we disagree with the viewpoint that is being expressed.”

Pai went on to say public officials shouldn’t “sound an uncertain trumpet when oft-offended opportunists urge us to undermine the First Amendment.”

He said he thinks the FCC should heed the words of Voltaire, who said, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” adding. “Anyone who takes seriously the Constitution—scholar or layman—knows the petition is meritless. The FCC should dismiss it tout suite, as Voltaire might have said.”

[The Hill]

Group Fights KTTV License Renewal Over Use of Word ‘Redskins’

fcc redskinsThree Native Americans have filed a petition with the FCC to protest the license renewal of Los Angeles FOX owned station KTTV over the use of the word Redskins.

KTTV broadcasts the NFL’s National Football Conference. The Washington Redskins play in the NFC Eastern Division.

Last month, George Washington University professor John Banzhaf said he would target local TV stations in areas with large populations of Native Americans to stop the use of the word. He also said he would go after Los Angeles stations since their licenses are up for renewal at the end of the year. KTTV’s license is up for renewal December 1.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for FOX Television Stations declined to comment on the matter.

All the petitioners argue that the respective stations have not met their legal obligation to operate in the public interest, because repeatedly and unnecessarily using a highly derogatory word – which has been found in several legal proceedings, as well as in dictionaries, to be a racial slur – when children are in the audience is clearly contrary to the public interest.

“No station which repeatedly and unnecessarily used the word “N*ggers” on the air would ever have its license renewed, and Native American leaders all say that the R-word is as much a racial slur to them as the N-word is to African Americans,” says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who filed the original petition against the renewal the license of WWXX-FM. Read more

Nexstar Gets FCC Approval to Transfer Seven Stations to Minority Owned Broadcaster

nexstar_304The FCC has approved the license transfer of Grant Company stations to Nexstar Broadcasting and Marshall Broadcasting.

Nexstar bought Grant’s seven stations for $87.5 million in 2013. Marshall Broadcasting (MBG) is a minority owned station group with Nexstar’s financial backing.

“We are pleased to announce approval of an accretive transaction to benefit Nexstar shareholders,” Perry A. Sook, chairman, president and CEO of Nexstar said in a statement. “As a result of this approval, Nexstar will lead the industry in incubating a new, minority-controlled entrant to broadcasting and bringing additional news, information and specialized programming to markets where MBG will operate.”

The stations involved are CW and FOX affiliate WFXR-WWCW in Roanoke and Lynchburg, Va., FOX affiliate WZDX in Huntsville, Ala, CW affiliate KGCW and FOX affiliate KLJB in Quad Cities, and FOX affiliates WLAX-WEUX in LaCrosse, Wisc.

Read more

FCC May Give New Life to Aereo

fcc logoFederal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler says he wants to include internet video in the definition of a multichannel programming provider to “boost competition with cable and satellite services.”

In a blog post, Wheeler said he wants to “modernize” how the commission defines a multichannel video programming distributor by making it “technology neutral.” Doing so would give internet based providers “the same access to programming owned by cable operators and the same ability to negotiate to carry broadcast TV stations that Congress gave to satellite systems in order to ensure competitive video markets.”

Variety reports the move could breathe new life into Aereo:

Such a move also could give new life to Aereo, which has sought to be defined as a multichannel distributor following its defeat in the Supreme Court over its carriage of local TV stations over the Internet. A federal judge recently rejected Aereo’s latest effort to be defined like a cable service, but Wheeler noted in a blog post that the company had recently visited the FCC to make the point that updating the definition of a multichannel distributor would expand choice and “perhaps consumers will not be forced to pay for channels they never watch.” Nevertheless, Aereo would have to alter its economic model, as it would most likely not be able to obtain broadcast streaming rights for free. Read more

FCC Hits Texas Station with Fine for Violations Possibly Dating Back 22 Years

fcc-logo_white-on-blackThe Federal Communications Commission levied an $86,400 fine on the parent company of Midland and Odessa,Texas NBC affiliate KWES.

The FCC says it asked Midessa Television, which also owns KTLE in Odessa, KWAB in Big Spring and KTLD in Midland, about its use of Broadcast Auxiliary Services for audio and video feeds between its studio and transmitter sites.

Midessa responded on January 31, 2014, and admitted that it operated three BAS facilities without authorization and failed to operate six BAS facilities in accordance with their respective authorizations. Midessa noted that it learned of the violations in May 2012 in the course of conducting an audit of its BAS facilities.

TVTechnology writes the violations surfaced when Midessa applied “for three new as-built stations and six modified stations in April of 2013.”

“Midessa stated that, even after interviewing former station staff, it could not identify the exact dates the violations occurred, but that they probably were ongoing at various times for at least four years,” the Notice said. “Further, Midessa stated that it could not rule out the possibility that some of the stations were noncompliant at the times of their acquisitions in 1991 and 2001.” Read more

Why the Fight Over Washington NFL Team’s Name May Affect LA Stations

LA_wikipediaVariety reports FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently told reporters he is considering a petition to sanction broadcast stations who use the term Redskins when referring to the Washington, D.C. NFL team.

The FCC is getting in on the fight after George Washington law professor John Banzhaf filed a petition with the commission to pull the license of the radio station owned by the same man who owns the NFL team.

Now it looks like the naming battle may come to the West Coast after Banzhaf revealed he intends to challenge the license renewals of the Los Angeles ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX owned stations because they use the name during broadcasts.

Banzhaf told The Hollywood Reporter he will target markets with large Native American populations like Oklahoma, South Dakota and North Dakota, but said one of the reasons he chose Los Angeles first was because the station licenses are up for renewal on December 1.

Banzhaf is in talks with several Indian groups (he would not name names) about supporting his effort. He can’t personally petition an L.A. station. It has to be done by a resident of the station’s viewing area.

A petition would trigger a process that would require the station to respond, after which Banzhaf’s side would also respond to that response. “The FCC moves like molasses,” said Banzhaf. “Meanwhile the stations do not have their license renewed and that may have consequences for them.” Read more

FCC Looking to Woo Broadcasters to Participate in Spectrum Auction

fcc sealThe Wall Street Journal reports the Federal Communications Commission wants more broadcasters to participate in the upcoming spectrum auction.

The auction is meant to meet growing demand by wireless carriers for more spectrum. Broadcasters who auction off their airwaves will either go dark or be moved to a new channel.

The broadcasters have thrown up roadblocks throughout the process and are currently challenging aspects of the FCC’s order in court, though they say they are fine with the auction as long as it remains voluntary.

To win them over, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is making the case that the auction is a unique opportunity for TV broadcasters and has hired an investment bank, Greenhill & Co., to prepare a pitch document that it will send to every eligible TV station in the country. The document attempts to spell out how broadcasters stand to benefit from participating in the auction—including dollar estimates in every market.

“What we’ve been saying is, you know what, there might just be a higher and better use for that spectrum that will put more money in your pocket,” Mr. Wheeler said in a phone interview.

The auction represents in many ways an existential threat to the broadcasting industry, as it could result in dozens of stations going off the air. The latest information from the FCC indicates the auction could affect more stations and markets than initially thought, partly because of the high projected prices stations can expect to receive for their spectrum in large urban and suburban markets.

GAO Says FCC Needs More Data Before Regulating Shared Service Agreements

FCC_304The U.S. Government Accountability Office published a report saying the FCC doesn’t have enough information to regulate shared service agreements.

In its report, the GAO wrote, “FCC does not collect data and has not completed a review on the prevalence of agreements, how they are used, or their effects on its policy goals and media ownership rules.”

The report said the agreements pit cable and satellite providers and consumer groups against station group owners, with cable and satellite providers saying the deals contribute to higher rates for consumers while consumer groups say shared services agreements dilute the quality of news in local markets.

The GAO said reports were mixed on the actual effects of the agreements “because the [retrans] negotiations are subject to nondisclosure agreements, and there is no data source identifying which stations participate in agreements.”

The report concludes by telling the FCC it “should determine whether it needs to collect additional data to understand the prevalence and context of broadcast agreements and whether broadcaster agreements affect its media policy goals of competition, localism, and diversity.”

Deadline Hollywood

Congress Looking at FCC Ownership Rules

FCC_304A subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce meets today in a session called “Media Ownership in the 21st Century.”

On its website, the committee said it’s meeting to “discuss the FCC’s inaction on the statutorily required 2010 quadrennial review of the media ownership rules as well as the continued relevance of the media ownership regulatory framework in general.”

The subcommittee will also talk about the FCC’s decision to “forge ahead with new rules on joint sales agreements (JSAs) and other media ownership changes without the completed quadrennial review.”

In other words, lawmakers will talk about whether the FCC’s ownership rules are still relevant and whether lawmakers agree with the FCC’s decision to limit JSAs.

“The question is are the media ownership rules today even credible in today’s technological society?” Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) told The Hill. “Hopefully we flesh that out, make that case. Because if you stay under the same rules, there’s a chance you make it more difficult for the local purveyors of news and information to survive.”

Republicans have criticized the regulations and lambasted the FCC for moving forward with additional restrictions to broadcasters operating in the same media market. Under a proposal approved by the FCC in March, broadcast companies would be effectively banned from sharing more than 15 percent of their advertising resources, a practice that broadcasters say is necessary for them to operate. Read more

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