Keep up with the latest developments and legal issues in the telecommunications and emerging technology sectors, with exclusive access to a comprehensive collection of telecommunications law news,...
By Lydia Beyoud
Aug. 12 — FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler circulated a package of items Aug. 12 intended to help the FCC meet a Sept. 4 statutory deadline to open proceedings required under last year's reauthorization of the nation's satellite TV laws, according to an FCC blog post.
Several contentious items required by the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014 already have been taken up by the Federal Communications Commission, such as streamlining the effective-competition filing process for cable operators. As the commission moves further into the area of modifying its video market and retransmission consent rules under STELAR, broadcasters, cable groups and other video market companies are expected to ratchet up the pressure on the commission over policy changes.
One of the most controversial of Wheeler's latest proposals is likely to be an order to remove the FCC from the process of enforcing exclusivity contracts between in- and out-of-market broadcast affiliates during retransmission disputes. The National Association of Broadcasters immediately struck back at the proposal, saying the FCC's role is vital to protect “localism” for local media content.
The rules would prevent cable and satellite multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) from providing out-of-market broadcast stations when a local channel has been blacked out during a retransmission consent dispute. The FCC adopted a further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) on the rules in March 2014.
“In this item, the Commission takes its thumb off the scales and leaves the scope of such exclusivity to be decided by the parties, as we did in the Sports Blackout Order last year,” Wheeler said.
NAB decried the order, saying the network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules are a “lynchpin of the local broadcast business model” and help sustain free local news and lifeline information.
While broadcasters hate the idea, the proposed order wouldn't be a major boon to cable providers either, said a cable industry source, speaking on background.
“Unfortunately, Wheeler’s proposal will not make cable great again. Cable companies would still need retransmission consent from out-of-market network stations and that is highly unlikely when the Big 4 networks are constantly intervening to block their TV station affiliates from granting retransmission consent beyond their home markets today,” the cable source said. “It's essentially a status quo move and the broken retransmission consent regime will continue to bleed consumers,” the source said.
The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014 required the FCC to open a proceeding to review rules regarding the satellite, cable, and broadcast television markets.
STELAR also required the FCC to begin a review of its “totality of the circumstances test,” one part of the commission's two-pronged framework for evaluating good faith negotiations in retransmission consent deals.
Wheeler circulated a notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes (NPRM) “a robust examination of practices used by parties,” particularly in light of recent retransmission consent negotiations. The goal of the NPRM “is to ensure that these negotiations are conducted fairly and in a way that protects consumers,” Wheeler said.
Under STELAR's market review mandate, Wheeler proposed to adopt a process for satellite TV providers to seek modification of a TV station's designated market area (DMA) to address the problems faced by residents of “orphan counties” near state borders. Cable companies are already allowed to petition the FCC for modification of a DMA.
The FCC unanimously approved an NPRM to implement Section 102 of STELAR on March 26 so that households can receive local news, weather emergency information, election results and local sports broadcasts from their state, even if they are included in a broadcaster's DMA from another state.
Local governments would also be able to petition for modification of DMAs for satellite companies, though broadcasters must still grant consent in all cases, Wheeler said.
Two far less controversial items Wheeler teed up for a vote were a proposal to allow broadcasters to post the terms of station-run contest rules online, instead of over the air.
Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly spearheaded the effort. An NPRM on the proposal received unanimous support from the commission Nov. 21.
Wheeler also put out a recommendation to adopt several proposals discussed in a 2013 AM radio revitalization NPRM, with an attached FNPRM and a notice of inquiry on additional updates for AM radio rules. Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Republican Commission Ajit Pai have both been active on the issue.
“This comprehensive set of actions modernizes our rules to keep them in line with the public interest in an ever-changing marketplace, and will help to ensure the continued vitality of AM radio,” Wheeler said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at email@example.com
Text of Wheeler's blog post is at https://www.fcc.gov/blog/upgrading-media-rules-better-serve-consumers-today-s-video-marketplace.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)