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Regulatory, legislative issues moving to front burner in DC, Austin

 - Radio call to action on Performance Tax

With just about a month into the New Year, broadcasters already are seeing meaningful progress on a range of issues important to newsrooms and other key station operations with initiatives in Congress, the FCC and the Texas Legislature.

FCC correspondence file, EEO compliance

The FCC is the brightest spot where anti-broadcaster sentiment among commissioners has given way to newly appointed Chairman Ajit Pai’s oft-stated appreciation for the industry. His focus on clearing the regulatory pathway of obstacles hindering broadcasters’ technological advancement already is evident in developments of the past week and in comments he made supporting TV broadcasters’ foray into ATSC 3.0.

The Commission approved at its January 31 meeting a measure eliminating the need for commercial stations to retain letters from the public in their public inspection file, removing the last piece of a broadcaster’s local paper public file. Additionally, the FCC concluded that licensees also will no longer need to summarize correspondence from the public related to violent programming when renewing a license. These rule changes take effect upon approval by the Federal Office of Management and Budget which could take several months.

The FCC also is considering changing its EEO rules to allow Internet-only recruitment for filling job vacancies, instead of forcing stations to purchase newspaper ads or employ other “analog” sources for doing so. TAB made the request in support of a similar proposal made by a station licensee outside of Texas and was joined by broadcast associations representing 49 other states, as well as the NAB.

Performance Tax, Ad Tax, Spectrum Repack

Already, House members are signing onto a new resolution opposing the RIAA’s continuing push for Congress to adopt a new performance royalty or “tax” on local Radio stations. The measure, co-authored by Texas Congressmen Mike Conaway, R-Midland, and Gene Green, D-Houston, already has 122 co-sponsors, including 10 from Texas.

Nine Texas lawmakers have not yet renewed their co-sponsorship of The Local Radio Freedom Act (HConRes 13). Radio GMs should contact their lawmakers’ DC staff and district offices alike and ask them to renew. Texas has always led the country in the number of co-sponsors, and we want to continue that tradition.  Performance Tax Call to Action

Preserving the full deductibility of advertising costs is broadcasters’ chief goal in federal tax reform – a top agenda item for the new administration and Congress alike. The process will unfold gradually over the next 18 months.  Senators are expected to take an appropriately deliberative approach to what will be the first overhaul of the federal tax code in decades, and broadcasters should use this time to underscore how harmful any taxation of advertising – which has been exempt since the inception of the tax code – would be to new businesses and small businesses.

With the TV spectrum auction coming to a close, TAB will be weighing in with members of Congress to ensure they fulfill their commitment to viewers that they will not lose access to their local broadcast TV programming as a result of the auction. This likely will require Congress add hundreds of millions of dollars to the TV Relocation Fund created by Congress with auction proceeds to reimburse stations for all costs associated with relocating to a new channel assignment.

Newsroom legislation advances in Austin

Two bipartisan measures TAB is advancing in the 2017 legislative session are gradually gaining traction with lawmakers. The bills would close huge loopholes in the Texas Public Information Act resulting from two separate Texas Supreme Court rulings that shut off the public’s access to information on how tax dollars are spent.

Senators Konni Burton, Don Huffines and Jane Nelson – all DFW Republicans – and Chuy Hinojosa, a South Texas Democrat, have signed on as co-authors of both measures which were filed by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake.

In the House, Capriglione has been joined by:

  • Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth
  • Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mount Pleasant
  • Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth
  • Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso
  • Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton
  • Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster
  • Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton
  • Rep. Ed Thompson, R-Pearland

TAB is undertaking the effort in conjunction with the newspaper industry and Freedom of Information advocates, as well as groups representing local government entities.

Additional newsroom measures will be introduced in the coming weeks, and TAB will continue to defend a broad range of tax, newsroom and general business legislation enacted in past sessions.

TAB’s State & Federal Policy Agenda, Talking Points

While these issues are front and center for broadcasters, keep in mind that the only bill lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass is a two-year budget. With available state revenues choked by the oil price crash and restricted by voter-approved priorities, that’s already proving difficult as shown in this report on the budget process.

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

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