Julian Hattem

Broadcasters, cable firms protest FCC emergency plan

Broadcast and cable television companies are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission’s new plans for emergency alert messages. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the National Association of Broadcasters told the FCC that its new proposed guidelines for the text that crawls at the top of the screen during a flood, snowstorm or other emergency aren’t necessary and could be expensive.

“Standardizing the appearance of EAS [Emergency Alert Service] messages for speed and size is unnecessary to address accessibility concerns and would lead to significant cost with little benefit,” the NCTA told the FCC.

Sen Franken warns merger would give Comcast 'unprecedented' power

Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable would give the company "unprecedented" power, Sen Al Franken (D-MN) warned the Federal Communications Commission.

Sen Franken, who is up for re-election in 2014, told the FCC that the combination of the country's two largest cable companies “would position Comcast as a veritable gatekeeper over vast swaths of the nation's telecommunications industry, resulting in higher prices, fewer choices, and worse service for consumers in Minnesota and across the country."

“The proposed acquisition also would threaten innovation and economic activity on the Internet, and it would jeopardize the free flow of information and ideas on which our democracy depends,” he added. “Because the proposed acquisition does not advance the public interest -- but, rather, is inimical to it – [the merger] must be rejected.”

Bitcoin lobby launches spending PAC

The Bitcoin industry has formed a political action committee that it could use to shower lawmakers and party committees with donations.

The Chamber of Digital Commerce, a month-old trade group for digital currencies and assets like Bitcoin, registered a political spending group with the Federal Election Commission in August.

The group is still in its infancy and has no immediate plans to support individual candidates, CEO Perianne Boring said. Still, formation of the PAC is a sign of increasing maturity for Bitcoin and a signal that politicians could face political pressure to support virtual currencies.

Broadcasters hit back on ownership rules

Radio and TV broadcasters issued a formal rebuke to the Federal Communications Commission’s restrictions on company ownership. The FCC should “recognize and come to grips” with the changes that have taken place in the media market over the last eight years, the National Association of Broadcasters said.

Communications Workers of America calls for broadcaster sharing disclosures

The Communications Workers of America is calling for the Federal Communications Commission to require radio and TV broadcasters to publicly detail all sharing agreements that they have.

CWA said that broadcasters make deals to share the same news programming or give each other operational support “to evade the Commission’s local television ownership rules and its newspaper/broadcast cross-ownerships rules.”

The FCC should expand an order banning broadcasters from selling at least 15 percent of another’s advertisements to those other sharing arrangement, the union said. That would prevent companies from trying to skim profits by getting rid of employees and degrade “the quality and quantity of locally originated news and public affairs programming at the expense of quality journalism.”

House lawmakers formally rebuke leaders over phone ‘unlocking’ maneuver

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a privileged resolution criticizing House leadership for changing the text of a bill on cellphone “unlocking” before it hit the floor earlier in 2014.

Reps Walter Jones (R-NC) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced the measure to disapprove of the action from House leaders and the heads of the Judiciary Committee and direct them “to operate in a matter that maximizes transparency and public trust.”

The action is a formal rebuke to House leaders for quietly slipping a controversial measure into the bill that allowed people to switch their cellphone from one network like AT&T or Verizon to another in February. The contested provision banned unlocking for “bulk resale,” which would have prevented people from setting up shop exclusively for unlocking phones and which supporters said was necessary to reduce the incentive for people to steal phones.

In their resolution, the two lawmakers claimed that the change “fundamentally altered the substance of the underlying bill.”

8 LA-area Members of Congress ask FCC to umpire baseball television fight

A group of California Democrats is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to help resolve a dispute between cable companies over showing Los Angeles Dodgers games on television.

Silicon Valley cash flows to K Street

Google, Microsoft and Amazon all beefed up their lobbying spending, new disclosure forms show. Google was one of the tech set's biggest spenders, dropping $5.03 million between April and June, a $1.21 million hike from earlier in 2014 and an increase of $1.67 million from the same period in 2013.

The spending complements a new Washington headquarters that Google opened just steps from the Capitol in recent weeks, and could be a sign of increased focus on the Beltway for the company. Microsoft, meanwhile, spent an extra $260,000 on lobbying, bringing its second quarter totals up to $2.34 million. That’s still a decrease from the $2.96 million it spent during the second quarter in 2013. Amazon cracked $1 million in quarterly spending for the first time in its history, as the company put a new focus on drone regulation and postal reform. And Twitter, which is still a relative newcomer to Washington, jumped from $50,000 during the first three months of 2014 to $90,000.

Ex-Rep Berman lobbying for Hollywood

Former Rep Howard Berman (D-CA) is lobbying on intellectual property issues for Hollywood’s top trade group, the Motion Picture Association of America.

MPAA signed a retainer with Berman, who is now a lobbyist with the K Street firm Covington & Burling, on June 30, and the news was made public in a recently released federal disclosure form.

Farmers lobbying on ‘clean’ satellite TV bill

Advocates for farmers are putting pressure on members of Congress to support a “clean” reauthorization of an expiring satellite TV law.

In July, the head of the South Dakota Farmers Union met with Sen John Thune (R-SD), the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, and other lawmakers to urge them not to change broader TV licensing rules while extending the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

Changes to current law could hurt rural customers, Doug Sombke told Sen Thune, and shouldn’t be included in the 2014 “must-pass” bill.

“Senator Thune and many rural lawmakers are very aware of the situation and are sympathetic to the difficult position a STELA with stripped-down consumer protections could cause their constituents in rural America,” said Sombke, who is the head of the National Farmers Union legislative committee.