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Posts Tagged ‘FCC’

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

FCC Gives Denali Media OK to Buy Alaska Stations Over Local Broadcasters Objections

GCI_logo_-_AgencyDenali Media has been given the go-ahead from the FCC to buy three Alaska TV stations despite opposition from four Alaskan station groups.

According to one of the stations involved, Denali, a subsidiary of Alaska’s cable giant General Communications, Inc., is expected to complete its purchase of Anchorage CBS affiliate KTVA, Sitka NBC affiliate KSCT and Juneau NBC affiliate KATH within days.

The Alaska Dispatch reports, Andy MacLeod, general manager for Anchorage NBC affiliate KTUU one of the stations fighting the sale, told employees in an email following the ruling, “We’re disappointed in the FCC ruling and we, along with the other Alaska broadcasters, will assess our legal options moving forward.”

A main concern for the media entities that wanted to block GCI/Denali was the concept of a dual monopoly. GCI has what some view as a near-monopoly on the distribution of news, information and entertainment through its statewide cable systems. Jumping in now as a producer of that programming in the form of Denali Media stands to make GCI even more dominant as a common owner of both a cable system and broadcast television stations. The fear of what that would look like if GCI was ruthlessly anticompetitive motivated many Alaska broadcasters to seek protection from the potential threat through regulatory restrictions. Read more

FCC Set to Allow More Foreign Investment in Local TV

FCC_304In its November meeting, the FCC said it will consider opening up local radio and TV stations in the US to more foreign investment.

Acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a statement, “Today, I circulated a declaratory ruling that clears the way for increased access to capital and potential new investors for the broadcast sector. Approval of this item will clarify the Commission’s intention to review, on a case-by-case basis, proposed transactions that would exceed the 25 percent benchmark that restricts foreign ownership in companies holding broadcast licenses.”

According to the Minority Media & Telecom Council, the proposal would help minority broadcasters. “Relaxation of the rules would provide new sources of capital for all broadcasters and, especially, minority broadcasters to grow their operations in this country.” The council also said it believes the move would open up American investment in foreign countries.

Commissioner Ajit Pai said he thinks the proposal modernizes “the agency’s approach to foreign investment in the broadcasting business.” Pai added, “Under our rules, a foreign company can indirectly hold more than a one-quarter stake in our nation’s largest wireless carriers, cable operators, cable programmers, and Internet backbone providers. Yet that company cannot own a similar interest in a single radio station in rural Kansas.”

FCC Proposes Change That May Affect Big Station Groups

FCC_304AdWeek reports the Federal Communications Commission has voted to start looking at changing the way it counts television stations against the total national ownership cap.

Right now, a station’s value is based on whether it’s VHF or UHF. According to the FCC, UHF stations “count less than TV stations on VHF channels.” Some argue station groups like Sinclair are taking advantage of that rule in their recent station acquisitions.

Commissioner Ajit Pai argued the change might put a stop to future deals.

First, Pai suggested that the discount should not be eliminated without reviewing the 39 percent ownership cap, which is as dated as the UHF discount and hasn’t been reviewed by the FCC since 2002. He also took issue with how the FCC proposed to grandfather the rule to Sept. 26, the same day the FCC proposed, but did not pass the rule.

“It’s not the law of the land now, but the grandfathered clause tells the marketplace to behave as if it’s already been eliminated, making the rulemaking process a reality before it’s voted,” Pai said. “It would dampen the market for broadcast stations and depress value.” Read more

FCC Stepping In to Resolve Time Warner/CBS Dispute

Bloomberg is reporting the Federal Communications Commission has stepped in to resolve the long running dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS.

“The commission is engaged at the highest levels with the respective parties and working to bring the impasse to an end,” agency spokesman, Justin Cole said. “We urge all parties to resolve this matter as quickly as possible so consumers can access the programming they rely on and are paying for.”

According to AdWeek, the dispute has left more than 3 million cable subscribers without CBS shows. The dispute over retransmission fees has stretched into its 26th day and includes major markets such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas.

Though it remains to be seen just what the FCC is doing to end the impasse, the news of its involvement comes after the commission’s acting Chair Mignon Clyburn said she was “really distressed” over the dispute.

Bloomberg also reports a Time Warner spokesperson told them company executives have updated the commission on the status of negotiations twice in the last seven days. They said CBS declined to comment.

WTHR Wants to Boost Signal After Viewer Complaints

WTHR has asked the FCC if it can boost the output of its transmitter after hearing complaints about its over the air signal.

The Indianapolis Business Journal said the station filed the request in June after receiving complaints from more than 40 viewers, “since WTHR has transitioned to [digital], viewers have repeatedly complained that they experience reception problems when trying to view WTHR’s broadcasts.”

WTHR went as far as sending engineers to viewers’ homes to measure signal strength. It also has incrementally dialed up power on two previous occasions in an attempt to remedy reception problems since the 2009 digital transition.

Phil Bremen, an associate professor in the Telecommunications Department at Ball State University, told the IBJ the increase in power for the signal makes sense, “In a business where margins keep shrinking, nobody wants to give up any viewers by default.”

[TVNewsCheck]

Station Groups Remind FCC to Keep Wireless Mic Channels After Spectrum Auction

Expressing concern for what they see as “little or no apparent effort” to  protect the current spectrum broadcasters use for wireless mic frequencies, several station groups including Nexstar, Sinclair and FOX Television Stations have asked the FCC to keep them in mind when it undertakes its upcoming spectrum auction and subsequent channel repack.

“We urge you to preserve the two channels set aside for wireless microphone use in each market so that we can continue to provide Americans with an essential public service,” the broadcasters wrote in a letter to acting FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn. “Without interference-free wireless microphones, newsgatherers simply would lack a reliable way to deliver the live, breaking news that all Americans – regardless of the medium they interact with – find important in their daily lives.”

The letter asks the Commission to maintain two channels per market for wireless mic transmissions. “To be clear, we are not seeking any new accommodations or set asides; rather, we are asking only that the Commission preserve the status quo so that we can be assured of having a place to operate post-auction.”

The letter ends by letting the FCC know emergency coverage like that seen in the Boston Marathon bombings, the tornadoes in Oklahoma and Superstorm Sandy may not be possible without the availability of clear wireless channels,  “The Commission should not take lightly the risk of interference depriving consumers of audio from breaking news and emergency events.”

[TVNewsCheck]

Two Groups Ask FCC to Deny Gannett’s Purchase of Belo for Different Reasons

On Wednesday, the American Cable Association, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV asked the FCC to block part Gannett’s deal to buy Belo Corporation saying it will increase the likelihood of higher re-transmission fees, transmission blackouts and higher consumer costs.

The same day a group of six organizations petitioned the FCC to deny the deal because they contend it violates the FCC’s cross-ownership rule and its rule against duopolies and would lead to, “job losses and a considerable reduction in the quality of journalism for millions of television homes.”

Gannett has said it plans to transfer ownership of Belo’s stations in St. Louis (KMOV), Phoenix (KTVK-KASW) and Tucson (KMSB-KTTU) to former Belo executive Jack Sander and Ben Tucker, the former head of the Fisher station group. Gannett already owns KSDK in St. Louis and KPNX in Phoenix as well as a newspaper in the Tucson market and would use Sander and Tucker to avoid FCC regulations preventing such ownership. Read more

Broadcast Networks May Use the FCC to Beat Aereo and Make Billions Doing It

The FCC’s upcoming incentive auctions may be the weapon broadcasters are looking for in their fight against Aereo, the upstart company using over-the-air signals to sell content to consumers on the cheap.

One theory being floated says the threats by CBS and FOX to pull their networks off the air may not be so far fetched. Selling off spectrum would accomplish two goals: it would bring in billions to broadcasters while they stick it to Aereo by denying them the very root of their service, over-the-air signals. The Verge has more details on the idea that may make Aereo the game changer it promises to be, just not in the way it intended.

Conveniently, CBS directly owns 29 stations, most in major markets, while Fox parentNews Corporation owns 27. Every station sits on a lucrative license to regional spectrum that it uses to broadcast its signal. By submitting those licenses to the FCC’s auction, these networks would stand to see a windfall, shutting the door on Aereo (which relies on over-the-air signals to collect its source content) in the process. Meanwhile, American households that rely entirely on over-the-air television — a recent GfK report estimates them at 17.8 percent of the viewing public — would be the pawns in the game.

Broadcasters Warned: New Movie Trailer Uses Actual EAS Alert Tones

A trailer for the new movie “Olympus Has Fallen” is using short bursts of a real Emergency Alert System tones as part of its soundtrack.

Radio magazine decoded the tones from the trailer titled, “No Surrender” and tracked them to a monthly test in Virginia. While the trailer is currently posted on You Tube, The Society of Broadcast Engineers has warned stations they could be in trouble if they use it on air:

March 7, 2013 – This is an advisory that a new movie, Olympus Has Fallen, to be released on March 22, 2013, uses actual EAS tones in the movie trailer. If the trailer is used in radio or TV advertisements, the stations may be subject to FCC fine. Read more

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