Broadcasters: FCC Proposal Could Clutter Streaming Platform

Broadcasters are pushing back on an FCC proposal to change how they notify viewers of certain applications those stations file with the FCC, arguing, for one thing, that it could put them at a streaming disadvantage to online video providers without such FCC regulation.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on a final item at its May 13 public meeting teleconference.

Currently, some stations, radio and TV, are required to provide written notices to a local newspapers, others to provide on-air notices and some to use both, with specific rules on "timing, frequency, duration, and content."

The FCC said that complexity has created compliance issues it wants to resolve by streamlining the process, making it uniform, and allowing for online notification on a station's Web site.

Broadcasters are fine with that, but where they have a problem is with the FCC's proposed requirement that the "FCC Applications" link or tab be at the top of the station home page, and that "a broadcaster that has an app for its station, designed to be installed on users’ mobile devices, must include in the app a link to the web page containing the full notice text."

In various teleconference meetings with FCC staffers in advance of Wednesday's planned vote, execs from Fox, ViacomCBS, NBCU, Univision, and Disney(ABC) said the FCC should allow stations to put the applications tab at the bottom of the home page where many already include a link to their FCC online public interest file, EEO reports, contest rule disclosures and other info. "Consumers are now accustomed to looking for station information in that location," they told the FCC staffers.

As to having to place application notices in a station's app, they call that an "unnecessary and burdensome" additional regulation (in an item meant to streamline the process), especially given what they called the "evolving nature" of station apps.

"Mandating the inclusion of such additional navigation devices and information in station apps would constitute an expansion of regulation, not an update or modernization of existing regulations, and would unfairly disadvantage broadcast licensees, who compete with other digital media companies to provide consumer-friendly viewing options," they said. 

They argue that apps are designed to be "clean and simple" platforms for viewing of video, both news and a station's streamed signal, rather than being primarily for getting station information.

"Such apps aim to present a clean and simple interface for viewing video," they said. "Moreover, apps typically represent a much smaller percentage of the viewing audience than desktop and mobile websites, and updating apps typically takes much longer than making changes to desktop and mobile websites, which makes them unsuitable for conveying this kind of information.... Finally, apps frequently lack the kind of stacked 'hamburger' icon or other embedded tools that pull up a navigation menu and govern the user experience." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.