The FCC announced in a recent Public Notice that it will extend the deadline for compliance with its new television closed captioning quality rules until March 16, 2015.

Previously scheduled to go into effect on January 15, 2015, the quality rules establish standards for television closed captioning concerning (1) accuracy, (2) synchronicity, (3) completeness, and

In a recent Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), the FCC announced that it is seeking comment on proposals that would require video programmers to file contact information and closed captioning certifications with the FCC.  Specific topics on which the FCC is seeking comment include the following:

  • Whether video programmers should be required to file

The STELA Reauthorization Act (“STELAR”) has been signed into law by the President.  STELAR extends the statutory copyright license for satellite carriage of distant signals for another five years (through December 31, 2019).  It also extends through January 1, 2020 the statutory good faith negotiation requirement imposed on broadcasters and MVPDs for retransmission consent negotiations.  As discussed below, it makes several other changes to the Communications Act and to the Copyright Act.
Continue Reading STELAR (STELA Reauthorization) Enacted

The FCC was set to release today hundreds of thousands of pages of highly confidential documents — including unredacted programming distribution agreement materials and negotiating strategy documents — for inspection by third parties as part of the Commission’s review of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DIRECTV mergers.  On Friday, November 14, however, a coalition of the largest broadcast and cable networks (“Content Companies”) won a temporary stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which halted the FCC’s disclosure of such documents and ordered briefing to help it decide whether the companies’ confidential pricing and negotiation information should be released by the FCC.
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Grants Stay in Battle Over Access to Content Companies’ Confidential Information

The FCC has adopted new rules regarding closed captioning quality for television programming.  At its meeting yesterday, the Commission unanimously approved a Report & Order that will establish four “non-quantitative” quality standards for closed captioning, requiring captions to be (1) accurate, (2) synchronous, (3) complete, and (4) properly placed.  The Report & Order will also

A federal appeals court struck down key parts of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order in a Jan. 14 decision, ruling that the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules improperly regulate broadband providers like “common carriers” — such as providers of traditional telephone service — even though the FCC has classified broadband providers as not subject to common-carrier obligations.   Importantly, however, the court held that the FCC has direct authority to impose restrictions on broadband providers as long as such rules do not amount to common carrier regulation.

The FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order generally prohibited both “fixed” and mobile broadband providers from blocking users’ access to lawful online content and services, with fixed providers — such as cable companies — subject to tighter restrictions than mobile operators.  In addition, the rules barred fixed broadband providers from “unreasonably” discriminating between different kinds of Internet traffic.

The FCC’s asserted goal was to prevent service providers from using their control of consumers’ broadband connections to prevent or discourage subscribers from using online voice, video, or other services that compete with the broadband provider’s own offerings.  The Commission concluded that such efforts would impair the spread of broadband, and the FCC found preventing such impairment was one of the mandates of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.   Verizon challenged the FCC’s rules as unnecessary, lacking in a statutory basis, and contrary to the Communications Act requirement that only traditional telephone companies can be subject to common carrier regulation.

In Tuesday’s decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the FCC’s judgments on a number of points, including that the rules were a rational policy tool to promote broadband and that the rules had a statutory basis in Section 706 of the 1996 Act, which heretofore had been characterized by the FCC as simply hortatory.  However, the court concluded that the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules violated statutory prohibitions on imposing common carrier rules on non-carriers.   The court upheld a separate rule requiring broadband providers to disclose their network management practices.
Continue Reading Court Strikes Net Neutrality Rules, Leaves Path for Other Broadband Regulations

The FCC has proposed fining Turner Broadcasting System $200,000 for allegedly transmitting simulated Emergency Alert System (EAS) codes 14 times over a six day period in the absence of an actual emergency.   Two viewers complained that an advertisement that aired on Turner’s Adult Swim Network (which shares channel airtime with the Cartoon Network) contained audio

Last week, the FCC released a Public Notice (“PN”), following up on its July Public Notice, concerning the software to be used during the Incentive Auction to determine whether the acceptance of each bid from a broadcaster will result in a feasible, and optimal, repacking process.
Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Releases Information Related to Repacking Process

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear litigation between broadcasters and Aereo, a streaming service that retransmits broadcast programming without consent or payment.  Broadcasters argue that Aereo infringes their exclusive right to publicly perform copyrighted works.  Aereo contends that its system uses one antenna per subscriber to provide each user a separate copy of the programs streamed and thus it is not “publicly” performing the works.  The Court will likely issue a decision by the end of June.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Aereo

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Tuesday in the so-called “Aereokiller” litigation.  The case tests whether services that allow subscribers to stream broadcast television on their computers and mobile devices infringe the exclusive right of copyright owners to publicly perform their copyrighted works.  Specifically, the Ninth Circuit will decide whether to uphold a December 2012 district court decision granting a preliminary injunction sought by NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and others to stop FilmOn X LLC (formerly known as Aereokiller) from re-transmitting broadcast television to its subscribers without a license.

The key legal issue in the case is whether FilmOn’s re-transmission of broadcast TV programming constitutes a public performance or a private one.  Copyright owners have the exclusive right to publicly perform their copyrighted works, but cannot stop the private performance of their works.  At oral argument, counsel for FilmOn argued that the company provides only private performances, as it re-transmits broadcast TV programming to each of its subscribers via individual antennas and DVRs.  As one of the judges on the Ninth Circuit panel observed, FilmOn appears to have chosen the individualized antenna and DVR system for the specific purpose of attempting to circumvent the prohibition on publicly performing copyrighted works without a license.

Continue Reading Oral Arguments Tee Up Widely Anticipated 9th Circuit Decision in “Aereokiller” Case