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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

News From the FCC

A story in today's New York Times discusses the apparently at-times contentious FCC meeting yesterday over FCC Chair Kevin Martin's proposal to regulate the cable industry more closely under the so-called 70/70 rule. The FCC Commissioners did agree, 3-2, to permit independent programmers to lease channels at more reasonable rates. Meanwhile, the politics goes on. Read Stephen Labaton's article here.

The FCC adopted additional rules and orders yesterday. Among them: a rule requiring broadcasters to provide more local programming information to the public.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today adopted a Report and Order (Order) which requires television broadcasters to provide more information on the local programming they are broadcasting and facilitate the public’s access to that information.  The Commission is committed to establishing and maintaining a system of local broadcasting that is responsive to the unique interests and needs of individual communities.  Today’s action ensures the public is well informed about how well television stations are serving their local communities and will make broadcasters more accountable to their viewers.

Under today’s Order, television broadcasters must file a standardized programming form on a quarterly basis.  This form will provide the public with easily accessible information in a standardized format on each television station’s efforts to serve its community.  The form requires broadcasters to list various types of programming, including local civic programming, local electoral affairs programming, public service announcements, and independently produced programming, and also includes information about efforts that have been made to ascertain the programming needs of various segments of the community, and information regarding closed captioning and video described content. This form will replace the current issues/programs list, which required broadcasters to place in their public file on a quarterly basis a list of programs that have provided the station’s most significant treatment of community issues during the preceding three-month period.  The standardized programming form will be available online and filed with FCC.

In this Order, the Commission also specifically requires television licensees to make their public inspection file (with the exception of their political file) available online if they have Internet websites and notify their audiences twice daily about the location of the station’s public file.

Action by the Commission November 27, 2007, by Report and Order (FCC 07-205).  Chairman Martin, Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, and Tate with Commissioner McDowell concurring in part and dissenting in part.  Separate statements issued by Chairman Martin, Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate, and McDowell.

Read the press release here.

The FCC also adopted new rules regarding low power FM radio.

The Federal Communications Commission (Commission) today adopted a wide-ranging series of ownership, eligibility and technical rules and sought comment on additional technical matters in the Low Power FM Third Report and Order (Order) and Second Noticed of Proposed Rule.

In this Order, the Commission adopts a number of rules and policies designed to foster and protect LPFM radio service which creates opportunities for new voices on the airwaves and to allow local groups, including schools, churches, and other community-based organizations, to provide programming responsive to local community needs and interests.  The Commission’s action today includes changes to strengthen and promote the long-term viability of the LPFM service, and the localism and diversity goals that this service is intended to advance.  The Order:

·        Allows the transfer of LFPM licenses subject to significant limitations.

·        Reinstates the Commission’s rule that all LPFM authorization holders be local to the community and limits ownership to one station per licensee.

·        Clarifies that repetitious, automated programming does not meet the local origination requirement. 

·        Encourages voluntary time-sharing agreements between applicants.

·        Imposes an application cap on 2003 FM translator window filers.

·        Limits the responsibility of LPFM stations to resolve interference caused to subsequently authorized full-service stations.

·        Establishes a procedural framework for considering short-spacing waivers and a going-forward displacement policy for LPFM stations.

In the Second Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, the Commission:

·        Seeks comment on technical rules that could potentially expand LPFM licensing opportunities.

·        Tentatively concludes that full service stations must provide technical and financial assistance to LPFM stations when implementation of a full service station facility proposal would cause interference to an LPFM station.

·        Tentatively concludes that the Commission should adopt a contour-based protection methodology to expand LPFM licensing opportunities.

  • Intends to address the issues in the FNPRM within 6 months, and that the next filing window for a non-tabled aural licensed service will be for LPFM.

  • Recommends to Congress that it remove the requirement that LPFM stations protect full-power stations operating on third adjacent channels.

Action by the Commission November 27, 2007, by Third Report and Order and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 07-204).  Chairman Martin, Commissioners Copps, and Adelstein with Commissioners Tate and McDowell approving in part and dissenting in part. Separate statements issued by Chairman Martin, Commissioners Copps, Adelstein, Tate, and McDowell.

Link to the press release here.

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