NBC and CBS affiliates last week begged the FCC not to exempt news and public affairs from the Internet copy protections for DTV programming that the agency is expected to approve by the end of the month. Station owners were alarmed by an agency questionnaire to TV and Hollywood trade groups soliciting opinions on various options for implementing the "broadcast flag," which is intended to restrict peer-to-peer file-sharing of copyrighted DTV programs. The news exemption is being considered because the FCC wants news disseminated as freely as possible. But the exemption would "gut" local stations' ability to recoup investments in news, Roger Ogden, chairman of the NBC affiliate board, told the FCC. The commission is expected to require that digital TV sets and storage devices be equipped to work with the flag, a code embedded in broadcast signals that determines the extent to which a program may be duplicated.
Putting some teeth in Chairman Michael Powell's broadcast-localism initiative, the FCC last week told 28 radio stations they face fines for sloppy maintenance of records that stations must keep on hand for public inspection. Public files must contain the station's license, signal-contour maps, documentation of complaints or FCC investigations, ownership and employment reports, network-affiliation and station-management contracts, and records of requests for political-advertising time. Fines of $3,000 were proposed for each station. The stations disclosed the public-file shortcomings in license-renewal applications now under review for the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. During the last renewal cycle, inadequate public files generated only a warning. "Our decision to fine these stations reflects the seriousness of the violations," said Media Bureau Chief Ken Ferree. "The public file provides citizens with important information about broadcasters' service to their communities."
Gemstar-TV Guide has hired Steve Vest to set up its Washington office. Vest, 43, is a congressional lobbyist for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and will stay in his current post until the current session of Congress ends. Vest will report to Christine Levesque, Gemstar's head of communication and marketing. "There is no one better suited than Steve Vest to lead this effort," she said. Prior to joining NCTA, Vest was a News Corp. vice president for government affairs and spent 14 years as a congressional aide.
Communications law firm Wiley Rein & Fielding celebrates its 20th anniversary with an Oct. 30 soiree at its K Street headquarters in Washington. The firm was founded in 1983 by Richard Wiley, former FCC chairman, and Bert Rein, a former State Department deputy assistant secretary for economic and business affairs. Fred Fielding, former counsel to President Reagan, joined in 1986. The firm now employs more than 250 attorneys, and its lawyers are regularly tapped to staff senior administration and FCC posts.
NBC affiliates won't get in trouble with the FCC for rock star Bono's unrestrained use of the F-word during the Jan. 19 Golden Globe Awards show, which aired on the network. The FCC ruled the U2 singer's blurting that an award to the group was "f__ing brilliant" and "f__ing great" was merely an exclamation. Numerous indecency complaints were lodged against the broadcast, most from a Parent's Television Council Web site. Bono's outburst may have been "crude and offensive," the FCC said, but did not depict sexual or excretory organs as indecency rules require. Also, because Bono's comments were "fleeting and isolated," no commission action was warranted.