FCC Chairman Ajit Pai this week announced items he plans to have on the agenda at the commission’s next public meeting on July 12. A headline matter, he said, will be exploration of ways to make additional use of the “C-band” spectrum (3.7 to 4.2 GHz). Currently, satellite operators that aid broadcasters in distribution of programming are among users of the band. However, the FCC, seeking ways to ensure U.S. leadership in next generation 5G wireless technology, is considering whether or not it is feasible to allow mobile broadband to also use the band.
According to its draft order and notice of proposed rulemaking fact sheet, the agency is seeking more information from C-Band incumbents and comments on possible changes. “In doing so, it seeks to balance the goals of bringing more spectrum to market quickly, ensuring that spectrum is used efficiently, and protecting incumbent interests,” the agency says. Of note, NRB suggested earlier this month (see “A Call for C-Band Users Registration by July 18”) that its members consider the FCC’s window for registration of existing C-Band earth stations.
Another important broadcasting matter slated for July’s open meeting will be proposed revisions to the children’s television programming rules. The Children's Television Act of 1990 mandated that broadcast TV stations air “core programming” serving educational and informational needs of children with limited commercial interruption. In the decades since, the FCC has developed a number of rules under this authority. For example, the agency requires that TV stations have at least 3 hours per week of core programs identified for their entirety by an “E/I” symbol. Also, such programs must be at least 30 minutes long, be aired between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and be regularly scheduled each week.
Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has spearheaded the agency’s move to re-evaluate these ‘Kid Vid’ rules. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, he described how the current regime is not only a major paperwork burden on broadcasters, but also actually harms the viability of children’s programming. “The FCC should fix Kid Vid, providing needed flexibility to broadcasters without undermining valuable existing offerings,” he said.
Similarly, Chairman Pai said, “These rules impose programming mandates on broadcast television stations (and only broadcast television stations). Commissioner O’Rielly has developed a number of proposals for updating these regulations to better match today’s video marketplace.”
Criticism has already come from some quarters, including Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), an author of the Children’s Television Act. Groups such as the Parents Television Council (PTC) have also expressed concerns. “[A]n honest review may very well conclude that the Kid Vid rules must be strengthened, not weakened; that there should be a regulatory requirement for more educational and informational programming, not less,” PTC president Tim Winter wrote in March.
NRB will remain carefully attentive to these matters in the days ahead.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: June 22, 2018