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Perry puts his name on media legislation

Gov. Rick Perry last week signed each of the four bills advanced by TAB during the regular legislative session, marking the 2013 biennial session as one of the best ever for broadcasters and other media.

“We are grateful to Gov. Perry and legislators for their leadership and support on these key measures which greatly improve the business and legal environment for stations by reducing or minimizing their exposure to frivolous lawsuits,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez.

“Our success was driven in part by the strong response from broadcasters to our calls to action throughout the session.

“Constituents continue to be the most effective lobbyists in terms of ensuring lawmakers appreciate the seriousness of our concerns and follow through on their commitments to Austin-based advocates,” he said.

A united front with the newspaper industry on three of the measures was especially important and built upon previous successes in 2011 and 2009.

Among the major policy wins:

Pre-1972 Sound Recordings – HB 1043 ensures that broadcasters can air songs recorded before 1972 without risking legal challenges under the state’s decades-old law prohibiting illegal copying or “bootlegging” of these older recordings.   Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, and Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, co-authored the legislation.  Ben Downs of Bryan Broadcasting testified on TAB’s behalf at the House committee hearing.  The bill took effect June 14, 2013.

Uniform Corrections and Retractions – HB 1759 establishes the “Defamation Mitigation Act,” a legal framework for broadcasters and newspapers to quickly correct errors in reporting and avoid costly legal battles.  Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, coauthored the legislation.  Patti C. Smith, KVUE-TV Austin, and Jerry Martin, KPRC-TV Houston, testified on TAB’s behalf at the Senate and House committee hearings, respectively.  The bill took effect June 14, 2013.

Electronic Communications – Passage of language in SB 1563 that was attached to SB 1368 expands the definition of public information in the Texas Public Information Act to include materials created in connection with any endeavor funded by public dollars and the form that information may take. The provisions also codify longstanding Attorney General opinions that TPIA-covered information includes electronic communications created, exchanged or maintained on any electronic device if the communication involves the transaction of official business.  Hunter and Ellis coauthored the language.  The bill takes effect Sept. 1, 2013.

Anti-SLAPP Jurisdiction – HB 2935 clarifies the appropriate jurisdiction for cases brought under the Citizen Participation Act which TAB and other media groups passed in 2011.  Again, Hunter and Ellis coauthored the legislation.  The bill took effect June 14, 2013.

The latter three were undertaken jointly by TAB and the Texas Press Association, with Laura Prather of Haynes and Boone serving as the lead attorney on the language and in negotiations with trial lawyers, municipalities and other groups.

“While we won big on these four ‘offensive plays,’ our defense was just as successful as we amended or stymied scores of other bills that would otherwise have damaged journalists’ ability to do their work informing local communities of important public policy concerns,” said Michael Schneider, TAB vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs.

TAB has developed a final status report on legislation with newsroom implications and will provide future guidance on some bills that passed without a clear indication of how newsroom interests are served, such as the bill prohibiting the use of unmanned aerial systems for surveillance by governmental entities in most instances.

“We deeply appreciate all the individual broadcasters, media attorneys, publishers, news executives and reporters who worked closely throughout the session to make these victories possible,” Schneider said.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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