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FCC

Two Los Angeles Stations Agree to Test Channel-Sharing

FCC_304Two Los Angeles broadcast stations will offer themselves up as subjects in an experiment to see if they can seamlessly share a broadcast channel in hopes of eventually freeing up spectrum for the wireless industry.

The two stations, public broadcaster KLCS and Spanish language station KJLA, will participate in the experiment thought up by the wireless communications industry trade association CTIA.

The object of the experiment is to jam two stations together on the same spectrum and hope viewers can’t see the difference at home. If it works it will mean more spectrum can be sold off to wireless carriers who say they need the added spectrum.

According to Wireless Week, “If the FCC approves the pilot, KLCS will host KJLA throughout the first quarter of 2014. At the conclusion of the test, CTIA and the TV stations will submit a report to the FCC on the viability of channel sharing.”

“We hope that the pilot program will provide broadcasters around the country with ‘real world’ data to evaluate the opportunity to channel share in the upcoming spectrum auction,” Alan Popkin, KLCS director of engineering, said in a statement.

Retransmission Fees and Blackouts Targeted in Two Separate Bills Before Congress

CableTVTwo bills introduced into Congress this week are taking aim at retransmission fees and blackouts.

The CHOICE or “Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment” Act, introduced by California Representatives Anna Eshoo (D) and Zoe Lofgren (D), would ask the FCC to force interim carriage of a TV station during a retrans negotiation impasse and would allow consumers to opt out of paying for TV stations that elect retransmission consent. You can read all five provisions after the jump.

The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, re-introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R) is “a comprehensive video reform bill that repeals outdated laws including compulsory copyright licenses, eliminates various mandates on private sector companies and consumers, and removes certain FCC broadcast and media ownership rules.” Read more

GOP Lawmakers Call FCC Study Attempt to Make FCC ‘News Police’

FCC_304An FCC study looking into how news stories are chosen and reported has caught the eye of  Republican members of the Commerce Committee who fear it may be an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine.

The 16 lawmakers told the commission in a letter that by looking into how how editorial decisions are made by local news outlets, the FCC is threatening the First Amendment.

In the letter, Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and 15 other lawmakers asked the FCC to stop the study saying, “It is wrong, it is unconstitutional, and we urge you to put a stop to this most recent attempt to engage the FCC as the ‘news police.”

The study, called the “Multi-Market Study of Critical Needs” plans to look at how broadcast, print, radio and internet news stories are selected, prioritized and produced. On its website, the FCC said the study looks at the information needs of the American public, with “special emphasis on vulnerable/disadvantaged populations.”

The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee along with every Republican member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee also wrote, “The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the beacon of freedom that makes the United States unique among the world’s nations.  We urge you to take immediate steps to suspend this effort and find ways that are consistent with the Communications Act and the Constitution to serve the commission’s statutory responsibilities.”

The Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides of  present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable and balanced way, exposing viewers to a diversity of viewpoints, was officially taken off the books in 2011.

[AdWeek]

FCC Challenging Part of Sinclair’s Allbritton Buy

FCC_304The FCC is telling Sinclair Broadcast Group that part of its $985 million purchase of Allbritton Communications will violate ownership rules.

TVNewsCheck reported Friday, FCC Video Division chief Barbara Kreisman told Sinclair the way it has structured its deal to buy Allbritton’s ABC affiliates in Charleston, SC, Birmingham, AL, and Harrisburg, PA, would not afford it the grandfathered protection the station group had previously enjoyed, which allowed it to operate multiple stations in a single market.

Earlier, The American Cable Association wrote “Sinclair, fully aware that the FCC’s rules would not permit its outright ownership of these Charleston and Harrisburg stations, is also proposing to assign its own stations in these markets to third parties – so-called sidecar companies – while continuing to provide many “support services” to the stations through a variety of sharing agreements. ” Read more

ACA Asks FCC to Change How it Grants Licenses, Supports SSA Study

aca_304The American Cable Association is asking FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to change the way the FCC approves station licenses.

In its letter, the ACA asked the FCC to review station deals in front of the entire commission or “en banc,” when the deal involves a shared service agreement rather than letting the Media Bureau handle it. Said the ACA, “Only by doing so can the Commission ensure that the public values of competition, localism and diversity are fully served by its reviews of transactions involving U.S. broadcast licenses.”

>RELATED: Sinclair Hires Former FCC Media Bureau Adviser for Washington Office

In past filings with the FCC, the ACA has voiced its concern that companies using service agreements to own multiple stations in a single market could band together to squeeze more retransmission money out of cable operators.

The ACA also voiced its support of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV) who recently asked the commission to hold off on granting anymore licenses until the effect of shared and joint service agreements can be studied. Read more

Senator Asks FCC to Consider Effects of Service Agreements Before Approving Deals

FCC_304Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV has asked FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to delay ruling on upcoming station group mergers until the Government Accountability Office can complete its report on shared service agreements.

The request covers recent Sinclair and Nexstar purchases as well as the merger between Gannett and Belo.

TVNewsCheck reports the Democratic senator from West Virginia wrote, “Given the current questions about the impact of SSAs on the broadcast landscape the FCC should approach each of the pending transactions cautiously. While I am not taking a position on any particular transaction, I believe that the FCC should collect all information necessary to understand the scope and effect of the SSAs envisioned by the deals.” Read more

TWC and American Cable Association Ask FCC to Stop Mission’s Binghamton Station Buy

FCC_304Time Warner Cable and the American Cable Association are asking the FCC to deny Mission Broadcasting’s purchase of two Stainless Broadcasting stations in the Binghamton, NY, market.

In the petition, the two point out the deal, through sharing agreements with Mission, would essentially give Nexstar Broadcasting control of three of the four stations affiliated with major networks in that market.

As in similar petitions, the ACA is primarily looking to prevent station groups from gaining leverage when it comes to renegotiating retransmission deals and points a finger directly at Nexstar CEO Perry Sook for saying so, “Indeed, Nexstar’s CEO has acknowledged that a central rationale for the Mission-Stainless transaction is to use the leverage afforded by the combination of top-ranked stations in Binghamton to garner increased retransmission consent fees.” Read more

Media General Asks FCC to Take Sides in Retrans Negotiations with DISH Network

media general_dishThe growing animosity between DISH Network and Media General is now being played out in front of the FCC after Media General filed its own complaint with the Commission saying DISH is abusing the process in its battle over retransmission fees.

DISH Network filed a complaint with the FCC on October 18, asking the FCC to force Media General to negotiate in good faith after negotiations with the station group that started on October 1 stalled. DISH claimed Media General didn’t talk to them for 11 days.

Media General has now filed its own complaint with FCC asking the Commission to dismiss DISH’s complaint and “refer DISH to the Enforcement Bureau for consideration of the appropriate actions for DISH’s abuse of the Commission’s processes and for its misrepresentations to and lack of candor before the Commission.” Media General is also asking DISH to pay its attorney’s fees for responding to what they call a frivolous complaint.

The blackout affects DISH customers in 17 markets including Columbus, OH, Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL, and Hattiesburg, MS.

[TVNewsCheck]

FCC Fines Kentucky Station $39K for Using EAS Tone in Commercial

FCC_304The FCC is putting its foot down in response to what it says is an increase in the use of false emergency alert system tones used on air.

Yesterday, the commission announced it took action against both Turner Broadcasting and Bowling Green, KY, NBC and CBS duopoly WNKY “for apparent misuse of the actual Emergency Alert System (EAS) tones or close simulations of those sounds.” It also issued an Enforcement Advisory to stop the use of EAS alerts to grab attention in commercials or shows when there is no emergency.

“Today’s enforcement action sends a strong message: the FCC will not tolerate misuse or abuse of the Emergency Alert System,” said Enforcement Bureau acting chief Robert H. Ratcliffe. “It is inexcusable to trivialize the sounds specifically used to notify viewers of the dangers of an incoming tornado or to alert them to be on the lookout for a kidnapped child, merely to advertise a talk show or a clothing store. This activity not only undermines the very purpose o f a unique set of emergency alert signals, but is a clear violation of the law.” Read more

American Cable Association Petitions FCC Over Sinclair’s Latest Purchase

aca_logo_croppedThe American Cable Association has filed a petition asking the FCC to either restrict or deny Sinclair Broadcast Group’s purchase of New Age Media’s television stations.

The ACA is taking a different stance than other organizations who oppose Sinclair’s buying spree. The ACA is making it primarily about money. They’re concerned Sinclair could leverage its sidecar agreements and gang up on local cable providers to squeeze more money out of them rather than negotiate station by station.

In its FCC filing, the organization said, “ACA is concerned about the effect of the transaction on two markets where the transaction would result in Sinclair entering into agreements that allow it to coordinate the negotiation of retransmission consent agreements for two top-four rated Big Four television stations.” Read more

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