With the Iowa Republican Caucus happening in mid-January and dozens of additional primaries and caucuses to follow before the 2024 general election, broadcasters need to be aware of the use of artificial intelligence (AI), deepfakes and synthetic media in political advertising and the various laws at play when such content is used. These laws seek to ensure that viewers and listeners are made aware that the person they are seeing or the voice they are hearing in political advertising may not be who it looks like or sounds like. Campaigns, political committees, super PACs, special interest groups and other political advertisers are using AI, deepfakes and synthetic media in advertisements, making it easier to mislead and misinform viewers and listeners.
The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, a $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and omnibus government funding package, contains several noteworthy communications-related measures, including $7 billion in funding for broadband initiatives and expanded television and radio station eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
$7 Billion in Broadband Funding
The legislation’s broadband provisions target funding to both new and existing programs, responding to immediate broadband access and affordability challenges intensified by the pandemic, while also addressing longer-term broadband deployment and network security issues. Specifically, the legislation will provide additional funding for telehealth, create an emergency broadband subsidy program for eligible low-income households, fund increased broadband deployment on Tribal lands and in unserved areas, and support the removal and replacement of communications network equipment and services that pose risks to national security. An overview of these provisions is included below.
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On October 10, 2019, the FCC announced that it will hold a full-power FM Broadcast auction for 130 new construction permits starting on April 28, 2020. For now, the FCC is seeking comment on the procedures for the auction, although it does not propose any significant changes from past FM broadcast auctions. In connection with the auction, the FCC also announced a filing freeze prohibiting minor change applications, petitions, or counter-proposals directly affecting or failing to protect the construction permits to be auctioned.
A majority of the construction permits will be for lower-power Class A facilities, but there are 28 new facilities that are authorized to operate at 25 kW or higher. For example, a Class B facility in Sacramento will be available, along with stations on the outskirts of major cities like Dallas and Seattle. Overall, Texas is home to the most available permits (32), with numerous opportunities also available in Wyoming (11), California (10), and Arizona (8).
Parties seeking to file comments regarding the list of available construction permits and/or the auction procedures should submit them by November 6, 2019. Reply comments are due November 20, 2019. After reviewing the record, the FCC will release the final list of available permits and auction procedures, most likely in early January 2020.