As many readers know, the MAB is a member of the National Alliance of State Broadcast Associations (NASBA), which represents broadcast associations in Washington, filing joint comments in FCC proceedings.
In 2017, when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai launched the Media Modernization proceeding, he asked broadcasters to submit comments proposing changes to the FCC’s broadcast rules to improve those rules while eliminating unnecessary burdens. NASBA responded with comments proposing a broad number of changes, most of which have either been adopted by the FCC or are the subject of ongoing rulemakings considering such changes.
On June 18, Chairman Pai released, in a blog post, a list of matters to be voted on at the FCC’s July meeting. In it, he wrote:
“The Commission’s July meeting will also feature three media-related items. The headliner out of this trio will be an update to the FCC’s children’s television programming rules. In recent decades, we’ve seen a monumental shift in the way young viewers access video programming. I’ve seen it myself in comparing my own television viewing habits as a child to those of my kids today. So this update of our rules is long overdue.”
The children’s television item is another aspect of the Commission’s Modernization of Media Regulations Initiative (MMRI), which is focused on updating the rules to match the realities of the media marketplace. And it’s not the only MMRI item on our July agenda.
The Commission will also vote on two items that will replace wasteful and costly paper notifications with electronic notifications. The first is an order updating the triennial must-carry/retransmission consent election process for broadcasters and covered video providers, such as cable operators and satellite TV providers. Under these new rules, commercial broadcasters would no longer be required to send their elections via certified mail to each provider, but instead would upload their elections into their public files every three years and notify video providers by e-mail of any change.
NASBA’s comments in the Media Modernization proceeding urged the Commission to streamline its Children’s TV requirements, so we are pleased to see the FCC move forward on that (final details are still being debated), but of particular interest to broadcasters is Chairman Pai’s paragraph regarding Retransmission Consent Elections. Based on the description above, it sounds like the FCC is pretty much adopting NASBA’s exact proposal. Depending on the size of the broadcaster, the cost of complying with the old rule could be in the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each election cycle, with incredibly high stakes (being dropped from a cable system or forfeiting retrans payments for the next three years) for making an error. If adopted, as appears likely, this will be a big win for NASBA and state broadcast association TV members.