Tax Reform and Advertising Deductibility
Congress plans to tackle tax reform in the months ahead. With a goal of cutting the corporate tax rate, it is likely that lawmakers will consider reducing or eliminating altogether some long-standing deductions. One potential target: the deductibility of advertising expenses.
This is perhaps the most serious threat the broadcasting industry has faced on a national level in recent memory. The MBA, other state broadcasters’ associations and the NAB are marshaling their resources to fight this battle. We are building a coalition of businesses involved in advertising both nationally and here in Minnesota. Watch for more details on an advocacy strategy in the days ahead.
In the meantime, we have assembled an online tool kit (password: MBAmember16) with resources you will find helpful for educating your members of Congress about the significant impact of advertising on the state and national economy. Please take time now to review the materials, enlist support from local advertisers and tell your lawmakers that changes to the advertising deduction will harm businesses, cost jobs and damage the economy.
Please report any contacts that you have with you members of Congress on this issue to the MBA.
Jim du Bois
MBA Members Receive Discount on Conclave Registration
The Conclave is set for July 26th-28th at the Doubletree by Hilton-Park Place in St. Louis Park. MBA members receive a $50 discount on each registration. Register here and enter the code STA42 when prompted.
Sign-Up Now for the MBA FCC Alternative Inspection Program
Register now for the MBA’s FCC Alternative Inspection Program. Inspections begin in mid-April and will continue through September. Stations that successfully pass the program are exempted from FCC inspections for a three-year period except for targeted regional enforcement initiatives or in response to a complaint. During the last ABIP cycle in 2014, more than 200 Minnesota radio and TV stations participated. This is an excellent opportunity to check compliance with FCC Rules, and the experienced inspectors are dedicated to making the process educational for station management and staff.
Tornado Live Code EAS Test Set for April 20, 2017
April 17-21 is Severe Weather Awareness Week in Minnesota. A live TOR code EAS test is scheduled for April 20, 2017 at 1:45 pm and again at 6:45 pm (back-up date is April 21 at the same times if severe weather threatens on the original date). Warning sirens will sound at both times in many locations. Stations are encouraged to air the test messages if scheduling permits. The Minnesota EAS Team and the MBA secured a waiver from the FCC to permit use of the live TOR EAS code. One of the conditions for securing the waiver requires us “to conduct as wide-ranging a public information campaign as is practicable about the planned testing events.” Accordingly, we will provide stations in advance of the tests with educational materials that they can share with their audiences. Look for more information as Severe Weather Awareness Week approaches.
DIGITAL KEEPS RADIO VERSATILE, PROFITABLE—AND IN TOUCH
The relationship between radio and digital has never had more potential for success, and the prospects for when they combine forces have never been brighter. Industry experts, analysts and radio group execs weigh in here and in an Inside Story roundtable about the power of this evolving connection.
RTDNF hosts First Amendment Awards
RTDNF honored a distinguished group of journalists and First Amendment leaders, including Minnesota’s own Stanley S. Hubbard and the late Stanley E. Hubbard, for their commitment to press freedom at the 27th Annual First Amendment Awards. The event, held Tuesday evening in Washington at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, raised money for journalism scholarships, fellowships and training for the newsroom leaders of tomorrow.
Throw Out Those Letters – But Not Just Yet
By Gregg Skall
MBA FCC Counsel
Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, LLP
Don’t close it down just yet – but get ready.
In his first FCC meeting leading the Commission, newly appointed Chairman Pai delivered on expectations that he would feel the pain of broadcasters. As one of his very first items served up for action, the Commission acted on the long-awaited order to eliminate the public inspection file requirement that commercial broadcast stations retain letters and email from the public in their public inspection file. Since it is the last and only item still required to be kept locally, many broadcasters are anxious to move swiftly to complete their transition to the FCC online file, enabling them to do away with the local public file altogether and thereby allowing them to safely close out public access to the main studio.
So, get ready, but don’t do it yet!
First, the order is not yet effective. It will become effective only after it is published in the Federal Register and the Commission has issued a notice announcing OMB approval and the date the order becomes effective.
Second, every broadcaster contemplating a swift move to the online public file, must review their station practices for compliance with all Commission rules to be sure that items still permitted under the rules to kept in the onsite local public file are transferred to the appropriate places in the FCC online public file.
Currently, only commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen markets with 5 or more full-time employees are required to have completed the transition to the FCC online public file. All other radio stations, regardless of market or the number of full-time employees, have another year to comply, until March 1, 2018. But, all stations are required to upload only new political file materials, as of the date of required compliance. So, whether required to transition or doing so voluntarily before the March 1 deadline, stations are still required to maintain older political file materials for the mandatory two-year period. In order to eliminate having to maintain a local public file requirement, a station must by upload all political file materials for the required two year holding period to the online public file.
So, while under the order existing political file materials can remain in a local physical or accessible electronic file, there is strong incentive to move everything online since it will enable new efficiencies and potential cost savings by being able to close unlimited main studio access to the public in order to view the local public fie. So if you want move online, make a good checklist and upload all the political file materials, issues-programs lists and any other materials required to be kept in the local file, except FCC applications which the Commission itself will transfer from its own databases.
Remember too, that the FCC requires that each station maintain a local backup of the political file to be used in the event that FCC online public file becomes unavailable. While it does not need to be made available to the public unless the FCCs’ online files become unavailable, it must be maintained in either paper or electronic form. To ease this obligation, the Commission provides a link to download a mirror copy of the public file, thereby enabling the broadcaster to reconstruct the files locally, should before the online files become compromised.
In addition, remember that, if it maintains a website, each licensee must make available to the public a link on its welcome page to the FCC online public file. There must also be a direct link to the annual FCC EEO report and a contact listed to assist persons with disabilities in obtaining access to the public file materials.
This column is provided for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.