A full list of Federal issues and concerns facing broadcasters in Michigan:
Senate Passes Music Modernization Act
The U.S. passed the Orrin G. Hatch Music Modernization Act (MMA), joining the House of Representatives in unanimously approving the first reform of music copyright law in decades. Because the bills are not identical, the bill now goes back to the House for approval and then to the White House for President Trump’s expected signature. The MMA includes language that will formally establish a role for Congress as the Department of Justice (DOJ) reviews consent decrees with the two largest performing rights organizations — ASCAP and BMI — which collectively license over 90 percent of the musical works that are played on local radio and television stations. The MMA does not include performance tax on radio.
Court Upholds Copyright Royalty Board Music Streaming Rates
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit released an opinion upholding the Copyright Royalty Board’s (CRB) “Web IV” music streaming rates for years 2016-2020. This means that the streaming ratesf or 2016-2020 remain in place. SoundExchange raised a number of arguments in an attempt to upend the CRB-established rates, all of which were rejected. The DOJ defended the CRB’s decision in the case and NAB filed a supportive amicus brief, joined by iHeart and Pandora.
FCC Opens Rulemaking to Get Repack Funding for Radio
The ongoing spectrum repack could cost the radio industry millions of dollars in expenses. To address the issue, the FCC proposed a set of rules that would determine how the repack funds set aside by Congress to offset the costs will be spent. It is estimated that approximately 500 full-power FMs will be disrupted by the repack. The proposed rules spell out that the amount of money an FM or FM translator gets would depend on how much disruption the station faces. The proposed rules would provide up to 100% of funding for stations that must relocate because of a repack. The same offer would go to FMs that are permanently or temporarily required to modify their facilities because of the process. The FCC has proposed that stations off the air for between 24 hours and 10 days would receive up to 50% reimbursement of their eligible costs to construct new backup facilities or upgrade an existing one so at least 80% of the service area is covered. For stations that would be off the air for more than 30 days, the FCC proposed 100% of their costs be covered.
“The Honest Ads Act” Gets a Committee Hearing
A bi-partisan group of Senators cosponsored legislation to increase transparency in online political advertising. The measure called “The Honest Ads Act” attempts to align rules for online advertising with those broadcast on television and radio. The Act would require online companies like Google and Facebook to include disclosures identifying the purchasers of ads and maintain a “public file” of ads about candidates and issues of national importance. The new rules would apply to any entity that spends a cumulative $500 on online ads during an election cycle. Status: The bill had a committee hearing at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
Senate Passes Bill to Disclose Drug Prices in TV Ads
The Senate passed a measure to provide funding to require drug advertisements to disclose the price of the drug. The passage came as part of the massive health-care spending bill that the Senate, which included the drug price amendment from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The Senate’s health spending bill still needs to be reconciled with the House’s before it goes to the president’s desk.
The pharmaceutical industry opposes requiring prices to be disclosed in TV ads. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main drug industry lobbying group, warned the move would “confuse patients” and could violate the First Amendment.
FCC Ends Main Studio Rule
The FCC eliminated its broadcast main studio rule: a requirement that a broadcast station maintain a main studio in close proximity to its city of license that is open to the public and staffed during normal business hours. The action came on a 3-2 vote with the Democrats, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn dissenting. Main Studio rule is nearly 80 years old, and was implemented to facilitate input from community members and the station’s participation in community activities. The commission’s new order retains the requirement that stations maintain a local or toll-free telephone number to ensure consumers have ready access to their local stations. In ending the rule, the FCC said it “recognizes that today the public can access information via broadcasters’ online public file, and stations and community members can interact directly through alternative means such as e-mail, social media, and the telephone.” Given this, the agency found that requiring broadcasters to maintain a main studio is outdated and unnecessarily burdensome. The rule change will be effective January 8, 2018.
Station Spectrum Repacking Information
The National Association of Broadcasters has set up an information page for the TV stations that will be affected by the repacking process. NAB.org/TVStationMoves provides a searchable database of the stations that will have to move, the phase or timeline in which the move will have to take place and the number of viewers affected. The database can be searched either by Congressional district or by State.
Court Strikes Down 2016 Federal Overtime Rule
On August 31, 2017 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas overturned the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2016 overtime rule, which altered the salary level needed for executive, administrative, and professional employees to be deemed exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. While this court ruling is likely to end the principal litigation over the rule, the DOL is still examining whether to adjust the salary level. For the time being, executive, administrative, and professional employees will generally continue to qualify for an exemption from the federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements if they are compensated on a salary basis at a rate not less than $455 per week ($23,660 annually) and perform certain job duties outlined by the DOL. However, on July 26, 2017, the DOL published a request for information (RFI) seeking new public input on whether to revise the salary level for the executive, administrative, and professional employee exemptions, a move which may be a precursor to a new rule altering those exemptions.