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Proclaim 17 to Debut Learning Arena on Expo Floor

An all-new Learning Arena is opening on the Exposition Floor of Proclaim 17, the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention in Orlando, Florida. Proclaim 17 is from Feb. 27 to March 2.

The Learning Arena is designed to foster interaction and communication between exhibitors and convention attendees. It will showcase relevant education and training from ministries, product suppliers, and technical experts in a personalized way for each convention attendee to choose from information, advice, and tailored solutions.

A list of exhibitors is available at this link.

For those interested in becoming a sponsor for the Learning Arena, contact Jim Buckley at jbuckley@pcm411.com or 203-502-8283.

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New FCC Chairman's TV Ownership Deregulation Proceeds

During a Q&A with reporters this week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai played coy when asked about his plans for the TV ownership rules. "This is another one of those areas we are studying," he said. "You can see what I said in the past, but I’m not prepared today to make comments about where we might go in the future."

Well, last week in this space, I told you what Pai has said about the ownership rules in the past and from that record you would (as I did) logically deduce that he will significantly relax them now that he has the power.

In general, that would be a good thing.

Network affiliate groups need bulk to keep from being bullied by the networks, and all broadcasters need scale to negotiate for retrans fees and keep up with the other TV media — everything from cable to Netflix and Facebook Live — that keep encroaching on their audiences and siphoning off revenue.

But the questions are, how far can Pai go in relaxing the rules and how far should he go.

First, let's quickly recap the caps.

As things now stand, the local rules say that a broadcaster may own two stations in a market only if two conditions are met:

  • There are at least eight other independently owned stations or "voices" in the market.
  • Only one of the stations is among the market's top-four rated — that is, in most cases, only one is a Big Four network affiliate.

The first condition means no duopolies of any kind in medium and small markets, while the second means no Big Four duopolies in the big markets.

The communications bar has shot plenty of holes in the rule with joint sales agreements (85 by the FCC's count) and sales service agreements. These agreements allow one station to operate two stations, even two network affiliates, in markets where the rules say they may own only one.

Read Full Story Here

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LPTV Regulatory Inequality Highlighted in Senate Hearing

Hoover Institution Research Fellow Adam J. White claimed small firms take the brunt of Washington regulators' abuse in a testimony before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on Wednesday, Feb. 1, and he called for Congress to end "regulatory inequality" harming small businesses in particular.

During the hearing titled "A Growth Agenda: Reducing Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens," White brought forth his personal experience with the inequality in small business regulation by way of explaining his work defending the rights of small, community-based low power television broadcasters. He said the broadcasters were forced to fight in the federal court system, at their own expense, to have an even playing field with the larger broadcast companies.

But White's experience shows more small businesses than broadcasters are experiencing the unequal treatment. While working for a small bank, White witnessed their disadvantages in handling regulatory burderns that larger institutions were far better able to shoulder.

In his written testimony, White stated, “Another example I witnessed firsthand hits closer to this Committee’s home. Before I joined the Hoover Institution, my law firm colleagues and I became counsel to parties challenging the FCC’s orders establishing the unprecedented broadcast spectrum incentive auction, in which the FCC would conduct a reverse auction to buy back spectrum usage rights from licensees, then reorganize the available spectrum, and finally auction spectrum usage rights back to the public for new non-television uses.”

“In the Spectrum Act, which Congress legislated to authorize to the FCC to undertake an incentive auction, Congress took care to expressly protect the spectrum usage rights of low power television (LPTV) stations, which tend to broadcast for religious or ethnic communities that would otherwise go unserved by major broadcasters. Specifically, Congress provided in the Spectrum Act that ‘[n]othing in this subsection shall be construed to alter the spectrum usage rights of low power television stations.’”

“But the FCC radically reinterpreted that provision to presume that LPTV stations actually have no spectrum usage rights that prevent the FCC from unilaterally taking away their licenses without compensation, even when the LPTV stations’ Broadcasts have not interfered with the broadcasts of other licensees; and the D.C. Circuit ultimately affirmed the FCC’s interpretation of what the court held to be ambiguous statutory language.”

“That regrettable outcome—which threatens to force the shutdown of many LPTV stations, by the FCC’s own admission—highlights another major disadvantage that smaller companies face in the regulatory context: when Congress legislates in broad terms, it gives regulators much more discretion to impose their own policy preferences with the added benefit of significant judicial deference. In that context, small companies are left to fend for themselves in agency proceedings, where they enjoy far fewer of the resources and tools wielded by their much larger competitors.”

To read White's full testimony, view this PDF.

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ATBA Exec Director Says FCC Repack Notices Exhibit Minimal Effort

One of my contacts for this week’s Tech Thursday article, “Repack Problematic Despite Some Progress,” on the FCC’s Jan. 27 repack public notices was Louis Libin, a man who wears many hats.

Many know Libin as president and founder of technology consultancy Broad Comm. Others have worked with him as national frequency coordinator for RF-laden broadcast events like the Democrat and Republican National Conventions.

Libin is also the executive director of the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance, an industry group made up of broadcasters from the LPTV, translator and full-power communities. It is his role as an advocate for the interests of low-power and TV translator stations that made me want to get his perspective on the new repack public notices and what they mean for LPTV and translator stations.

What he had to say seemed to deserve standalone coverage, so I am presenting it here in the Playout blog.

Read Complete Article Here

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Co-Chair of Wiley Rein LLP Encourages FCC to Release Broadcasters from Prohibition Against Communication on Spectrum Auction

Co-Chair of Wiley Rein LLP Kathleen Kirby wrote a letter on Monday, Jan. 30, to the Federal Communications Commission addressing their responsibility to release broadcasters from the prohibition against communication about the Spectrum Auction and the consequences of keeping the prohibition in place.

"The Commission can provide much-needed relief to broadcasters simply by clarifying that nothing a broadcaster says about the reverse auction at this point would violate the prohibition on certain auction-related communications.," Kirby wrote.

She explained that when the prohibition was set into place, the FCC explained it was set in place to stop broadcasters from affecting the bids and bidding strategies, but now that the Reverse Auction has finished, Kirby believes the prohibition's effectiveness has ended.

"Finally, the Commission should be mindful of the detrimental effect its unnecessarily stringent interpretation of its rules is having on the broadcast industry," she wrote. "When adopting the prohibited communications rules, the FCC emphasized that “[t]he prohibition applies during a limited period of time, which we expect will be only a matter of months.”6 Broadcasters, however, have been hamstrung in their ability to discuss transactions and other business requiring disclosure of auction results for more than a year, and it may yet be a “matter of months” before the Incentive Auction officially comes to an end. We respectfully submit that there is simply no justification to handcuff the broadcast industry any longer."

To view a PDF of Kirby's full letter to the FCC, click here.

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