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FCC Votes to Allow Newspaper-Broadcast Cross Ownership
Washington - Dec 18, 2007 - The long-awaited vote on the revision to the FCC's rules on cross ownership of a TV or radio station and a newspaper in the same market has taken place. The change allows companies in the 20 largest markets nationally to own both outlets. The plan, announced in November by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, has been hotly debated since that time. The final vote: 3-2, with the Republicans Martin, Tate and McDowell outvoting Democrats Adelstein and Copps.

Martin was under constant pressure to delay the vote until 2008, but Martin persisted to change the rule that has stood for more than 30 years. For a company to be eligible to own a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market, there must be at least eight media outlets in the market, and if the transaction involves a television station, it can't be one of the four largest stations in that market. Outside the top 20 markets, companies can apply for a rule waiver, but the applicant must prove that allowing the cross ownership will be in the public interest.

Many senators have already stated their opposition to the rule change, threatening to withhold funding or to pass legislation to block the rule. Previous FCC attempts to change the ownership rules were challenged in court, and the FCC lost. It is likely that this rule change will also be challenged in court.


FCC Looks to Promote Broadcast Ownership Diversity
Washington - Dec 18, 2007 - During its Dec. 18 meeting, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a report and order that it hopes will expand opportunities for new entrants and small businesses to own broadcast outlets. The new rules will help eligible entities with access to financing and availability of spectrum.

The order includes these actions:

  • Changes its construction permit deadlines to allow "eligible entities" that acquire expiring construction permits additional time to build out the facility;
  • Revises the Commission's equity/debt plus ("EDP") attribution standard to facilitate investment in eligible entities;
  • Modifies the Commission's distress sale policy to allow a licensee - whose license has been designated for a revocation hearing or whose renewal application has been designated for a hearing on basic qualifications issues - to sell its station to an "eligible entity" prior to the commencement of the hearing;
  • Adopts an Equal Transactional Opportunity Rule that bars race or gender in broadcast transactions;
  • Adopts a "zero-tolerance" policy for ownership fraud and "fast-track" ownership-fraud claims and seek to resolve them within 90 days;
  • Requires broadcasters renewing their licenses to certify that their advertising sales contracts do not discriminate on the basis of race or gender;
  • Encourages local and regional banks to participate in SBA-guaranteed loan programs in order to facilitate broadcast and telecommunications-related transactions;
  • Gives priority to any entity financing or incubating an eligible entity in certain duopoly situations;
  • Considers requests to extend divestiture deadlines in mergers in which applicants have actively solicited bids for divested properties from eligible entities;
  • Convenes an "Access-to-Capital" conference that will focus on the investment banking and private equity communities and opportunities to acquire financing;
  • Plans of a guidebook on diversity that focuses on what companies can do to promote diversity in ownership and contracting;
  • Revises the exception to the prohibition on the assignment or transfer of grandfathered radio station combinations.

For the initiatives of this order, an "eligible entity" is one that would qualify as a small business consistent with Small Business Administration standards for its industry grouping, based on revenue.

In the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted as part of this item, the Commission seeks comment on whether it can or should expand its definition of "eligible entity" to include other businesses. The Commission also seeks comment on how best to improve its collection of data regarding the gender, race, and ethnicity of broadcast licensees. Finally, the Commission seeks comment on a number of additional proposals designed to expand ownership opportunities for new entrants and small businesses.

Radio magazine comment: While this FCC action has good intentions in mind, this is yet another reaction to trying to be politically correct. We doubt anyone would challenge the advantages of diversity in ownership, but while the FCC takes these steps in promoting diversity, it also lifts restrictions in a single company owning a broadcast station and a newspaper in the same market. Perhaps the FCC should go back to the ownership rules in general and reduce the number of stations that a single company can own. This would allow more owners to be involved.

The converse to this, however, is that running a successful station is a business. Many people and groups with a perceived interested in broadcasting quickly learn that it has to be more than a casual hobby to make it work and truly serve the public interest.

Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 07-217); Docket 07-294


FCC Adopts Localism Proposals
Washington - Dec 18, 2007 - The Federal Communications Commission has stepped into new territory with its Dec. 18 actions to try to ensure that broadcast stations offer programming responsive to the needs and interests of the communities that they are licensed to serve. The FCC's Report on Broadcast Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking sets forth proposals to increase local programming content and diversity in communities across America. In its review of these issues, the Commission accrued more than 83,000 written comments and heard the testimony of 500 panelists offered during the six field hearings on localism conducted throughout the country.

The Report makes tentative conclusions regarding the following proposals, for which it seeks comment:

  • Qualified LPTV stations should be granted Class A status, which requires them to provide 3 hours per week of locally produced programming
  • Licensees should establish permanent advisory boards (including representatives of underserved community segments) in each station community of license with which to consult periodically on community needs and issues
  • Commission adoption of renewal application processing guidelines that will ensure that all broadcasters provide some locally oriented programming

The report also states that the Commission will better educate members of the public as to the obligations of broadcasters and the Commission's procedures so that viewers and listeners can become more actively involved in ensuring that stations offer locally oriented programming; and investigate other ways to assist prospective radio licensees to identify suitable available commercial FM spectrum in the communities in which they wish to broadcast, including authorizing the development of software to do so.

The report notes that, as temporary trustees of the public's airwaves, broadcasters are obligated to operate their stations to serve the public interest, including their airing of programming responsive to the needs and issues of their station communities of license. The actions and proposals contained in the Report are intended to ensure that the nations' broadcasters will meet this responsibility.

Radio magazine comment: It will be interesting to see how this action plays out. The NAB has already stated concern over the issue, saying that this carries "grave First Amendment implications" and is based on "a false notion that radio and television stations have abandoned [their] commitment to serving communities or have stopped offering distinctive local programming."

The action has good intentions in mind, and portions of it may provide a shot in the arm to stations to remember their public interest duties, but the plan may backfire in the end.


Congressmen Intro Performance Rights Act
Washington - Dec. 18, 2007 - Members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees introduced legislation to end an exemption for radio stations to pay a performance fee for playing music over the air. The House version of the bill was introduced by Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA). Companion legislation was offered in the Senate by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Both bills would provide an option for stations to pay a flat rate for the use of the sound recordings According to Senator Hatch, "There is a symbiotic relationship between musicians and broadcasters. You can't have one without the other, and both make significant contributions to our culture and economy. We need to recognize performance rights, and we want to ensure this legislation is fair to both the broadcasters and the artists."

The bill supporters note that webcasters and satellite radio pay the performance royalty while terrestrial radio stations do not.

The NAB quickly noted that House Concurrent Resolution 224, introduced in October, states, "Congress should not impose any new performance fee, tax, royalty or other charge relating to the public performance of sound recordings on a local radio station for broadcasting sound recordings over-the-air, or on any business for such public performance of sound recordings." That resolution currently has the support of 119 members of the House of Representatives.


Business

Tieline Joins Group of Audio-via-IP Experts
Perth, Western Australia - Dec 11, 2007 - Codec manufacturer Tieline Technology has joined the Audio-via-IP Experts Group as a technology provider advising on the interoperability of audio codecs when broadcasting over IP. Tieline joined other Group members Orban CRL, Mayah Communications and AETA, and will collaborate on interoperability when developing new audio over IP enhancements.

The group's goal is to collaborate on methods for broadcasters to evolve from existing circuit-switched infrastructure into audio-over-IP technologies.


Sales Call
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The New England School of Communications in Bangor, ME, has purchased two Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones: A Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist and a Naked Eye.

People

Tascam Makes Sales Changes
Montebello, CA - Nov 19, 2007 - Johnny DeLeon has been promoted to regional sales manager for Tascam. DeLeon brings more than 12 years of sales experience to Tascam through experience with IK Multimedia and M-Audio. He will manage independent rep firms for the western US region.

Tascam has selected Frank Frombach as its new regional sales manager. Frombach will cover the southeastern U.S. for Tascam from Texas to the Carolinas. He brings sales experience in the musical instrument, contracting, live sound and pro audio markets. He served as national product specialist for Listen Technologies for the last five years, and before that was a sales representative for Aldridge Marketing for 10 years.


Ben Escobedo

Sennheiser Appoints Associate Product Manager
Old Lyme, CT - Dec 18, 2007 - Sennheiser Electronic has appointed Ben Escobedo to the newly created position of associate product manager, music industry products. His responsibilities include forecasting and maintaining inventory, providing customer support, implementing training sessions, executing trade shows, assisting and maintaining product catalogs, building rep support and business relationships.

Escobedo reports to Robb Blumenreder, industry team manager, music industry.



Products

Zaxcom Updates Deva Software
Pompton Plains, NJ - Dec 19, 2007 - Zaxcom has released a software upgrade for the company's Deva Deva IV, Deva V and Deva 5.8 multitrack recorder systems. Deva software 4.0 includes the capability for simultaneous multi-disk recording and background disk copying. This new background copy feature allows users to copy audio files to a common delivery media such as DVD-RAM while a live recording is in progress.

The new software also includes a full effects package, including three-band EQ, two notch filters per channel, and a soft knee compressor and delay. No PCs or external equipment are required to control the Deva or its functions. All features of Deva software 4.0 are accessible directly through the Deva's color touch-screen display.




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