Q’s in Search of Some A’s
A few questions broadcasters would like FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to answer in Las Vegas
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/16/2012 12:01:00 AM
The bad news for broadcasters in the public disclosure item is that they are likely going to have to put their political files online. Broadcasters argue this is expensive, time-consuming and duplicative of information available elsewhere.
The good news is that the FCC political file proposal, teed up for an April 27 vote, will not apply to most stations for a couple of years, at least, and does not require the uploading of up to two years’ worth of old files or add any new reporting requirements; further, stations can email PDFs to the FCC rather than uploading the documents themselves.
That’s according to top FCC officials familiar with the proposal, who spoke with B&C on background.
But the good-news part is relative. TV broadcasters are still feeling singled out by the online political disclosure. While cable operators also have to maintain political files of their ad buys, they are not included in the online proposal. That means it will be easier for cable ops to find out what broadcasters are charging and put the former at a competitive disadvantage.
Among the pot-sweeteners the FCC is offering broadcasters is a two-year phase-in of the political file online reporting requirement, with only about 200 network affiliates in the top markets required to file initially and the rest to follow two years after that.
FCC officials were also quick to point out they had taken broadcaster complaints into account in deciding not to require the online posting, by either broadcasters or the FCC, of any of the historic political ad paperwork in their files that dates back a couple of years.
Although the FCC will also vote April 27 to tee up the channel-sharing framework, one broadcast engineer speaking on background says he expects any action would be preceded by “a number of educational” efforts aimed at “lessening the friction between broadcasters and the FCC.” Rick Kaplan, FCC wireless bureau chief, has said there would be workshops and other venues for broadcasters to weigh in.
On the plus side, according to a broadcast source following the item’s progress, is that the FCC is not expected to vote to give wireless companies co-primary status with the broadcasters who will have to share their spectrum band. That would have raised interference issues, as well as signaling that broadcasters no longer had a band of their own. It could still appear in a later item, however, since the FCC voted unanimously in November 2010 to propose granting that co-primary status. —JE
With due deference to Genachowski, who also has to speak carefully about issues currently before the commission in open proceedings, B&C surveyed broadcasters, lobbyists and others for questions they would like some straight answers to in Vegas. Some of the language has been changed—passions can run high, or as one respondent put it when asked for the questions: “You just opened up a whole can of whoop-ass.” That can included questions about spectrum, ownership, indecency, disclosure, spectrum— and more spectrum.
- Why does the FCC want television broadcasters to put their political file information online while not requiring the same of cable systems or radio stations that receive political advertising?
- There has not been a truly complete spectrum inventory—taking into account spectrum that may have been paid for but is not in use. Are you comfortable that the FCC has been truly open-minded and thorough in its approach to spectrum reclamation—that it has truly “measured twice” so it can cut once?
- When will the FCC acknowledge the realities of today’s marketplace and provide ownership relief for small and mid-market TV broadcasters?
- When will the FCC release its allocation optimization model (AOM), the criteria for repacking stations and the “optimal” recovery of broadcast spectrum?
- If a split decision from the Supreme Court allows the Second Circuit’s decision [striking down the indecency enforcement regime] to stand, will the FCC suspend indecency enforcement nationwide, or only in the Second Circuit?
- How many indecency complaints are pending at the FCC Enforcement Bureau, how old are they, and how many license renewals are on hold because of them? Is the commission still insisting on tolling arrangements?
- When will the FCC finally deal with the backlog of TV license renewals?
- Do you agree with former FCC chairman Reed Hundt that broadband should replace broadcasting as the central communications medium and that broadcasting is a “threat to Democracy?”
- If broadband is the “go-to” medium for the American consumer, why is there any need for continuing FCC involvement in broadcast content regulation?
- What happens if not enough volunteers agree to give up their licenses?
- Are you concerned that the only spectrum volunteers would be those that provide diverse programming, like foreign-language, minorityowned stations? If so, does that serve the public interest?
- Given the FCC’s pursuit of broadcast spectrum, its retransmission-consent proceeding, the online public file decision and the continued inaction on media ownership, would it be unfair to believe that the current FCC is very anti-broadcasting?
- President Obama has called for the removal of unnecessary regulatory restrictions. What substantive media regulatory changes do you contemplate in the near future?
- In particular, why isn’t the FCC moving ahead more rapidly to make real changes in the nearly 40-year-old newspaper/broadcast rule (and especially newspaper/radio)?
- The recent Tribune/DirecTV impasse was resolved in a matter of days, as has been the case with virtually all similar cases in the past. Where is the FCC really headed on the retransmission-consent proceeding, and why was it even initiated?
- What changes, if any, do you expect will be made to the FCC’s sponsorship identification regulations, and why?
- Recently we’ve seen a number of upstarts, most recently Barry Diller’s Aereo, move to transmit local TV channels on the Web without permission from stations. At the same time, the FCC no longer seems sure about what a “multichannel video-programming distributor” is and has asked for comment on the definition. Where is the FCC going with this proceeding?
- Will The History of Broadcasting in the 21st Century be a short work?
E-mail comments to email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @eggerton
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