NAB and FCC Commissioners Share Policy Priorities
LAS VEGAS, NV – The National Association of Broadcasters and Federal Communications Commissioners Geoffrey Starks, Michael O’Reilly, and Brendan Carr provided policy information key to broadcasters during NAB 2019.
Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Expiration
Over 3 years ago, nascent satellite television companies were given a significantly discounted copyright license that allowed them to better compete with big cable monopolies. Under the license, a satellite company could import an out-of-market network TV station signal, typically from a major city, into a local television market where a local broadcast station cannot be served by the satellite company. At the time the license was created, the technology did not exist to enable satellite carriage of local broadcast stations in most markets. Today, there are no impediments to providing satellite viewers with their local broadcast station and it will be up to Congress to sunset this law once it is no longer necessary.
Local Radio Freedom Act
Record labels and performers are lobbying to impose a new fee on radio for airing and promoting artists’ music. Many Broadcasters oppose this performance tax and support the Local Radio Freedom Act that opposes any new fee on local stations. The stations argue that for nearly a century, record labels and performers have thrived from radio airplay and essentially free advertising and promotions from local stations.
ASCAP/BMI Consent Decrees
NAB supports the Music Modernization Act that puts into effect the first reform of the music copyright law. The Act establishes a role for Congress as the Department of Justice reviews consent decrees with the two largest performing rights organizations, ASCAP and BMI. The decrees are essential to a functioning music marketplace and any action to terminate them must be preceded by appropriate congressional oversight and implementation of an alternative framework to protect the interests of songwriters, licensees, and music consumers. The DOJ had signaled an interest in terminating consent decrees that underpin the music licensing marketplace and the balance Congress has strived to achieve in the Music Modernization Act.
The 1996 Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to review its broadcast ownership rules every four years and to repeal or modify those no longer necessary. To ensure competition of diverse viewpoints, NAB opposes the application of analog regulation in the digital age citing the explosion of new media sources including video and audio services, social media, blogs, websites, etc., with which broadcasters compete for in terms of audiences and advertising dollars. NAB applauds the FCC’s long overdue decision to modernize local broadcast ownership rules.
The C-Band is a strip of satellite spectrum that radio and TV stations use everyday to receive national content that is contained in their broadcasts. The FCC is considering transferring some of that spectrum to wireless companies for new services, which could impact the programming listeners and viewers rely on. Local TV and radio stations, cable and satellite providers rely on the C-Band spectrum to deliver national and syndicated content to consumers. New uses of the C-Band could cause interference with significant consequences, including loss of service entirely, for TV and radio audiences.
TV White Spaces
NAB asked Congress to reject Microsoft’s offer to purchase spectrum in the broadcast incentive auction arguing that spectrum is critical to news and emergency information local TV stations provide.
Many stations still do not stream their programs online due to the high cost of royalty rates. The Copyright Royalty Board resets the rate for streaming music every five years. NAB urged the CRB to set the rate at a level that incentivizes more radio stations to stream. The CRB acknowledged that royalty rates need to be reduced to encourage streaming and lowered rates for stations by 32 percent.