Broadcasting, Texting on Dockets Next Week

Officials in Washington, D.C., will be examining a number of items of interest to broadcasters and ministries next week.

On Tuesday, in addition to House Judiciary Committee’s rescheduled hearing featuring Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold an important review of its RAY BAUM Act that had re-authorized the FCC for the first time since 1990. That legislation also included authorization for repacking funds for full power TV, LPTV, translator, and FM radio stations affected by the recent spectrum auction. This is likely one of the last hearings to be led by Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) before she heads to the Senate next year.

On Wednesday, the FCC is slated to take action on a number of items, including one that would launch its quadrennial media ownership review by seeking comments on issues like AM/FM radio ownership subcaps, TV ownership rules, and diversity promoting proposals. The FCC will also look to eliminate an obsolete rule requiring broadcasters to physically display copies of their licenses in certain locations.

Another item the FCC will consider that has generated debate is a proposed declaratory ruling that wireless text messaging (SMS and MMS) is an “information service” governed under Title I of the Communications Act, rather than a “telecommunications service” under Title II. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has advanced this as a way to combat spam texts. “Aside from being a more legally sound approach, this decision would keep the floodgates to a torrent of spam texts closed, remove regulatory uncertainty, and empower providers to continue finding innovative ways to protect consumers from unwanted text messages,” he said. Observers like some at American Enterprise Institute have supported this move, while others, such as Public Knowledge, favor a more restrictive Title II classification.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: December 7, 2018

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