The FCC will have two agenda items aimed squarely at television broadcasters when it holds its next Open Meeting 4/27/12 – a rare Friday session, by the way. It will consider on-line public files and will also look at the framework for establishing channel-sharing arrangements in advance of incentive spectrum auctions.
There is a third broadcast item as well, one that will look into allowing non-commercial stations to conduct fund-raisers for third-party noncoms.
The channel-sharing item is essentially a foundation-laying matter, setting in a piece of the puzzle that will make the whole incentive auction proposal possible. It will likely give two licensees the ability to use digital multicasting to share one channel while making an abandoned channel available for sale to a wireless broadband bidder.
The devil will be in the details of the television public file proceeding. It is designed to improve public access to a station’s public file, but the possibility that it may require detailed disclosure of sensitive and complex political ad buys has broadcasters concerned.
From the FCC, here is the agenda synopsis:
* Billing for Unauthorized Charges (“Cramming”) Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: The Commission will consider a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that protects consumers by adopting and proposing additional rules to help consumers prevent and detect the unlawful and fraudulent placement of unauthorized charges on their telephone bills.
* Noncommercial Educational Station Fundraising for Third-Party Non-Profit Organizations Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: The Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking inviting comment on whether to allow noncommercial educational broadcast stations to conduct on-air fundraising activities that interrupt regular programming for the benefit of third-party non-profit organizations.
* Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Television Stations Report and Order: The Commission will consider a Report and Order that increases transparency and improves public access to community-relevant information by moving the television broadcast station public file from paper to the Internet.
* Innovation in the Television Bands Report and Order: The Commission will consider a Report and Order establishing a regulatory framework for channel sharing among television licensees in connection with an incentive auction of spectrum.
* Universal Service Fund Contributions Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: The Commission will consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on proposals to reform and modernize how Universal Service Fund contributions are assessed and recovered.
RBR-TVBR observation: If the FCC goes whole hog on political advertising filing requirements, we hereby predict an inside-the-Beltway slugfest that will almost certainly involve the judiciary before all is said and done.