Broadcasting

Free, over-the-air television and radio; community-based, low-power FM radio stations; public radio and television; and the obligations of licensees to serve the public interest. A key principle of federal communications law is that in exchange for free use of the public airwaves broadcasters agree to take actions to benefit the public. These principles are enshrined in the Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934 in the mandate that "broadcasting serve the public interest, convenience and necessity."

Politics Fuels Cable, Not Broadcast, News

CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC spend much of their prime-time hours dissecting President Donald Trump's every move and people on all sides of the political spectrum can't seem to get enough. Ratings are up at all three networks. Even with the same material to cover, the ABC, CBS and NBC nightly wraps were down a collective 4 percent in viewership for the season that ended in May. That fits a typical pattern, where news ratings generally rise during an exciting election year and fall when a new president becomes immersed in the day-to-day grind of governing.

Public broadcasting’s immortality defies reason

[Commentary] As changing technologies and preferences make government-funded broadcasting increasingly preposterous, such broadcasting actually becomes useful by illustrating two dismal facts. One is the immortality of entitlements that especially benefit those among society’s articulate upper reaches who feel entitled. The other fact is how impervious government programs are to evidence incompatible with their premises.

Sinclair-Tribune Merger Faces Roadblock as Court Puts Hold on FCC Station Ownership Rule

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals put on hold the Federal Communications Commission’s plans to restore a key media ownership rule that allowed major station groups to expand through mergers and acquisitions. The ruling could prove to be a roadblock to Sinclair Broadcast Group’s pending $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media TV stations.

The court issued a stay to the FCC’s decision in April to restore the so-called UHF discount, which has allowed major media companies to exceed restrictions on the number of stations that they can own. The court said that the stay will give them an opportunity to review the merits of the case. Apparently, the temporary stay granted on June 1 extends through June 7, and the real test will come next week after the review is completed by a three-judge panel.

Court Asked to Stay FCC’s Ownership Action

Several advocacy groups have asked the United States Court of Appeals in Washington to stay the Federal Communications Commission’s April 20 decision to relax the national TV ownership cap by restoring the UHF discount in calculating station group coverage.

The effect of the FCC action is to lift the allowable coverage from 39% of TV homes to 78% assuming that all groups in a market are served by UHF stations. The immediate effect of the stay would be to derail Sinclair's proposed $3.9 billion purchase of Tribune Media that would balloon Sinclair's coverage from just below 39% to 72%. The motion for emergency stay pending a full review of the FCC action was filed by the Institute for Public Representations at Georgetown University Law Center on behalf of Free Press, Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Mobilizing Project, Media Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Common Cause. The court has given the FCC until June 1 to respond to the motion.

FCC Stands Down on Stephen Colbert’s Trump Joke

The Federal Communications Commission will not be penalizing “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert after thousands of complaints flooded the government organization. After reviewing the complaints, the FCC “concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC’s rules.” Late night shows are given more leeway in what they can joke about, making the fear of being fined by the FCC for indecency more remote.