7 things to know ahead of the FCC’s net neutrality vote

Protesters demonstrate across the street from the Comcast Center Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Philadelphia. Demonstrators called for further Federal Communications Commission regulation of Internet traffic to support "net neutrality," advocates who want strong government protections for the open Internet. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Protesters demonstrate across the street from the Comcast Center Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Philadelphia. Demonstrators called for further Federal Communications Commission regulation of Internet traffic to support “net neutrality,” advocates who want strong government protections for the open Internet. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

After years of hearings, lawsuits and bickering, you would think there is nothing left to say about the concept known as “net-neutrality.” But this is the time to pay attention.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on the plan Thursday, the written detailed plan has not been made public and won’t be until after the Thursday vote.

Tom Wheeler

Tom Wheeler

Wednesday, one day before the FCC votes on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Net Neutrality proposal, a Congressional subcommittee will hold a hearing that will be a last gasp effort to derail the President and Chairman’s plan. Read more

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Jason Rezaian, Yeganeh Salehi

Iran frees one journalist

mediawiremorningGood morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. Iran frees one journalist: Yeganeh Salehi is out of jail, but her husband, Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian, remains in custody. They were arrested July 22. (WP)
  2. NBC News freelancer arrives in U.S. for Ebola treatment: Ashoka Mukpo is on his way to Omaha. (NBC News)
  3. Another view of The Washington Post under Jeff Bezos: “Only a nitwit would root against the health of the daily newspaper in the nation’s capital,” writes David Carr, who says that Executive Editor Marty Baron‘s paper “is in the middle of a great run, turning out the kind of reporting that journalists — and readers — live for.” (NYT) | The Post set a traffic record in September.
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Murdoch says he won’t buy Tribune papers

Rupert Murdoch tweeted Thursday night that he doesn’t plan to buy Tribune’s newspapers. He cited the FCC’s cross-ownership rules, which forbid the same person or entity from owning a print and a top broadcast property in the same market.

Poynter reported earlier this month that Murdoch’s News Corp was rumored to be assembling a bid for the Tribune Co. papers, which are set to spin off as a separate company next month.

Murdoch also runs 21st Century Fox, which owns and operates stations in several cities that overlap with Tribune papers, including Los Angeles and Chicago.

“I am not sure this amounts to ‘case closed,” Poynter’s Rick Edmonds wrote in an email. Read more

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on cell phones on planes. As one part of the federal government looks to remove restrictions on making phone calls from airplanes, another agency is apparently considering its own prohibition. Wheeler told members of Congress that while his agency sees no technical reason to ban calls on planes, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told him Thursday morning that the DOT will be moving forward with its own restrictions.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

What the FCC’s net neutrality ruling means for journalism

The battle over regulation of the Internet moves to Congress this week. Until now, the question of whether the Federal Communications Commission should have the power to force Internet service providers to treat all customers equally has been a legal matter, tied up in federal courts.

But on Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler heads to Capitol Hill to face the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who is openly critical of the FCC’s “net neutrality” rules — the commission’s attempt at ensuring a level playing field on the Internet.

Last week, the FCC, on a split decision, voted to open public discussion on the rules. More than 22,000 public responses have already poured into the commission’s comment site. Read more


Transparency advocates file FCC complaints about TV stations’ nondisclosures

The Campaign Legal Center and the Sunlight Foundation filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, charging 11 television stations failed to disclose required information about political ads they ran this year.

The two groups said in a press release Thursday that without such disclosures, “viewers are denied important information about the organizations and individuals seeking to influence their vote through these ads.”

According to the complaints, the stations failed to disclose in “political files” posted with the FCC such information as the names of candidates referred to in the ads and the names of the ad sponsor’s CEO or directors. The groups said in their release: Read more


Proposed FCC net neutrality rules could favor large content providers

The Wall Street Journal | The New York Times

In what would amount to a reversal on net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules that would allow companies like Netflix and Amazon to pay for high-speed delivery of their content, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The rules to be presented Thursday would prevent Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner from blocking or throttling individual websites called up by users, the Journal’s Gautham Nagesh reported. But broadband providers could offer companies preferential treatment for speedier lanes to get their content quickly to consumers based on “commercially reasonable” terms. Consumers could end up paying more for services if companies pass on the additional charges. Read more


Local TV stations defeated in FCC rules on joint ad sales, retransmission fee talks

The Federal Communications Commission handed local TV station owners two big defeats Monday. The FCC made it tougher for TV stations in the same market to sell advertising together. The so-called Joint Sales Agreements, or JSAs, Michael Manis have become increasingly common in recent years as smaller stations tap into the efficiencies of having one sales force sell for multiple stations.

The FCC’s new rules will ban JSAs in which one station sells 15 percent or more of the advertising time of another station.

The JSAs have become especially useful to stations that could not get FCC approval to outright manage another station in the market. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said stations have used JSAs as an “end-run” around FCC ownership rules.

Dennis Wharton, the National Association of Broadcasters executive vice president of communications, said, “For a decade, Republican- and Democratically-controlled FCCs have approved JSAs, which allow free and local TV stations to survive in a hyper-competitive world dominated by pay TV Giants. Read more


Petitioners ask FCC to block Gannett-Belo deal

Free Press | Variety

Gannett and Belo are trying to get around FCC cross-ownership rules by transferring broadcast licenses to shell companies, Free Press and other groups say in a petition asking the FCC to block the companies’ planned merger.

Gannett announced in June it would buy Belo, making it the fourth-largest owner of major network affiliate stations. The company already owns many newspapers. Investors have cheered the deal.

Time Warner Cable, the American Cable Association and DirecTV have also filed a petition opposing part of the deal, Ted Johnson reports. Those entities say “the deal threatens to drive up retransmission fees and risk even more station blackouts in negotiation standoffs,” Johnson writes.

“These arrangements attempt to mask the true intent and effect of the transaction: to allow Gannett to simultaneously influence and control multiple media outlets in the same local market in a way that is contrary to the public interest and otherwise prohibited by the Commission’s rules,” Free Press’ petition (embedded below) says. Read more

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Supreme Court decision offers no clarity on unplanned profanity in live broadcasts

Broadcasters won a narrow victory over the Federal Communications Commission today, but the U.S. Supreme Court did nothing to clear up which expletives are or are not allowed over the air. The court ruled in a case called FCC V. Fox Television Stations, but it avoided the key questions about what power the government should have to ban certain words or images from the airwaves.

This case wasn’t about expletives in news broadcasts, and the FCC has tried to assure journalists that they’re not the target of its indecency rules. But broadcasters have been worried because the agency has changed its mind before.

The FCC had cited Fox and ABC for three incidents that happened on the air. In two cases Fox aired live expletives that were uttered on awards shows; in the third case ABC aired video of a nude female’s buttocks for seven seconds on the show “NYPD Blue.”

The FCC issued new standards after these incidents aired; the court said it can’t apply those standards to incidents that occurred before the rules were in place.  Read more

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How reporters can mine political ad spending records

The Federal Communications Commission stirred debate last week when it voted to require some broadcast television stations to post their political ad spending records online. The four largest broadcasters in the top 50 markets soon will be required to post the records online; all other stations are exempt until 2014.

During a live chat, we discussed the vote with Columbia University’s Steve Waldman, formerly of the FCC, and WCNC-TV Investigative Reporter Stuart Watson.

Waldman recently referred to the records as a “gold mine of data” that will “help make our political system more transparent.” But not all broadcasters see it that way. Many have argued that putting this information online would be too costly, and that in doing so, they would be letting their competitors know how much they charge for ads. Read more

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