CommLawCenter Blog (Courtesy of Pillsbury)

By Scott R. Flick Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are less than a week away in the Aereo case, and broadcasters are feeling pretty good about their chances. With the Department of Justice, Professor Nimmer (who, along with his father, quite literally wrote the book on copyright), and a host of other luminaries filing in support of the broadcasters' position, the storyline looks a lot like broadcasters have portrayed it from the beginning: that this is a simple case of copyright infringement hidden behind a veil of modern technological obfuscation. Sensing that such a storyline is fatal...
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By Scott R. Flick After Monday's FCC meeting left television broadcasters facing higher expenses and lower revenues by restricting the use of Joint Sales Agreements and joint retransmission negotiations, broadcasters were due for some good news. Where the FCC is the bearer of bad news, it has often fallen to the courts to be the bearer of good news, generally by overruling the adverse FCC decision. Unfortunately, that process can take years, meaning that in Washington you have to take a very long term view of "the good outweighs the bad." This week, however, the FCC's bad news was...
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By Scott R. Flick While it has been around since 2009, Bitcoin has seen substantial media coverage in the past few months. Media outlets (as well as many other businesses) have been increasingly dabbling in the Bitcoin world, if for no other reason than to show they are up to date with the latest consumer fixations. While numerous businesses have begun accepting Bitcoin transactions, the most likely place to find them in the media world is as contest prizes or as part of an advertiser promotion. Of course, one of the principal reasons for the novelty of Bitcoin is...
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By Scott R. Flick and Carly A. Deckelboim March 2014 Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes: FCC Proposes $40,000 Fine for Public Inspection File/License Renewal Violations Short-Term License Renewal and Hefty Fine for Missing QIP Lists $5,000 Fine for FM Station's Failure to Maintain Minimum Operating Hours Failure to Disclose Rules Violations Leads to $40,000 Fine Late last month, the FCC issued two essentially identical orders against co-owned Milwaukee and Chicago Class A TV stations in response to a number...
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By Scott R. Flick There was quite a stir today when the FCC, despite being closed for a snow day, issued a Notice of Apparent Liability proposing very large fines against Viacom ($1,120,000), NBCUniversal ($530,000), and ESPN ($280,000) for transmitting false EAS alert tones. According to the FCC, all three aired an ad for the movie Olympus Has Fallen that contained a false EAS alert tone, with Viacom airing it 108 times on seven of its cable networks, NBCUniversal airing it 38 times on seven of its cable networks, and ESPN airing it 13 times on three of its...
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By Scott R. Flick Following a firestorm of media attention regarding the FCC's efforts to examine newsroom decision making as part of a Critical Information Needs (CIN) Study, the FCC had announced a week ago that it would modify the study to eliminate the questions directed at media entities regarding their newsroom decisions. That announcement, however, did not calm the furor, with calls from Congress for hearings and legislation to prevent the FCC from proceeding with the study. Late today, the FCC sought to put an end to this certainly unwelcome attention. It released a terse statement, the entirety...
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By Scott R. Flick and Carly A. Deckelboim February 2014 Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes: FCC Limits License Renewal to Two Years and Assesses $4,000 Fine $24,000 Consent Decree for Incomplete Public Inspection File Hotels Cited for Exceeding Signal Leakage Limits in Aeronautical Bands Station Assessed Fine for Public File Violations and Granted Short-Term License Renewal In reviewing the license renewal application for a Meridian, Texas radio station, the FCC's Media Bureau proposed a $4,000 fine for public inspection file violations. It...
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By Scott R. Flick I wrote a few weeks ago about Aereo's Rocky Path Ahead, discussing the legal obstacles Aereo will need to overcome even if the Supreme Court should rule in its favor in the currently pending proceeding. Yesterday, that path became even rockier, when a federal judge in Utah dropped a boulder in Aereo's path. The resulting sound was that of a thousand tiny antennas splintering against Utah red sandstone, with the judge granting a preliminary injunction prohibiting Aereo from operating in Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. The decision is Aereo's first major defeat...
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By Scott R. Flick It's been three years since I first wrote about marijuana advertising here at CommLawCenter. Despite a head-spinning number of developments since then, including the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado, the answer to the question of whether broadcast stations can accept marijuana advertising is no clearer today than it was then. Since all forms of marijuana use are prohibited by the federal government, and broadcasters rely on federal licenses to operate, millions of dollars of ad revenue hang in the balance. While steadfastly maintaining that marijuana is an illegal and dangerous drug, the...
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By Scott R. Flick Where the law aims to draw a bright line between what is permissible and what is not, advances in technology often blur that line, creating factual scenarios that couldn't have existed when the law was drafted. In the case of Aereo's technology, the mistake many are making is to assume that technology doesn't just blur the line, but erases it entirely. Courts, however, are remarkably astute at locating that faded line and darkening it rather than just throwing up their hands and saying "Congress didn't specifically address this technology, so you're free to do...
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By Scott R. Flick and Carly A. Deckelboim January 2014 Pillsbury's communications lawyers have published FCC Enforcement Monitor monthly since 1999 to inform our clients of notable FCC enforcement actions against FCC license holders and others. This month's issue includes: FCC Admonishes Television Stations for "Host-Selling" to Children $7,500 Fine Imposed for Documents Missing From Public Inspection File $17,000 Fine for Unauthorized Operation of a Radio Transmitter Admonishment Issued for Program Characters Promoting a Product The FCC continues to enforce its restrictions on commercial content during children's shows. Section 73.670 of the FCC's Rules restricts the amount of commercial matter that can be aired during children's...
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By Scott R. Flick Around this time every year, you typically see an abundance of articles in the trades making predictions about what the FCC will do in the coming year. It has become such a rite of the new year that I've even joked about it in past posts. This year, however, I have noticed much less predictive commentary about the FCC, and it isn't hard to understand why. 2014 is so far looking like a "to be continued" year, forcing FCC soothsayers to concede that it's hard to say precisely how 2014 will differ markedly from...
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