Category: Multichannel Video & Programming

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DISTRICT COURT SET TO RULE ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FIRST AMENDMENT CHALLENGE TO TCPA
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Second Circuit Holds That Contractual Consent May Not Be Unilaterally Revoked Under The TCPA
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Retransmission Consent Examined in Heated, Live Webcast Debate Among Broadcast, Cable, Programming, and Consumer Interests
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Broadcaster, Cable, Programming, and Consumer interests to debate retransmission consent in live webcast, Thursday, April 7 at 1pm EDT
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Comcast/NBCU Joint Venture Telebriefing (3/29/11)
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K&L Gates Global Government Solutions Report Includes Articles on Key TMT, Privacy and Patent Developments
7
Broadband in America: The Year in Review; What Lies Ahead
8
New Disability Access Requirements for Advanced Communications and Video

DISTRICT COURT SET TO RULE ON CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FIRST AMENDMENT CHALLENGE TO TCPA

By Andrew C. Glass, Gregory N. Blase, Christopher J. Valente, Michael R. Creta, and Natasha C. Pereira

Last week, a bi-partisan coalition of political groups and the federal government completed briefing cross motions for summary judgment in American Association of Political Consultants, Inc., et al. v. Sessions, Case No. 5:16-cv-00252-D (E.D.N.C.).  The case challenges the constitutionality of a portion of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”).  The plaintiffs contend that the TCPA’s prohibition on making auto-dialed calls or texts to cell phones without the requisite consent, 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(1)(A)(iii) (the “cell phone ban”), imposes a content-based restriction on speech that fails to pass strict scrutiny and is unconstitutionally under-inclusive (the plaintiffs’ complaint is discussed here).  The government is defending the statute’s constitutionality (previously discussed here).

In their summary judgment briefing, the plaintiffs argued that content-based exemptions to the TCPA’s cell phone ban, such as an exemption for debt collection calls made on behalf of the government, render the cell phone ban unconstitutional.  According to the plaintiffs, these exemptions produce outcomes where certain speech is privileged in violation of the First Amendment.  In particular, the plaintiffs asserted that the exemptions fail to withstand strict scrutiny because they are not narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means available.  Further, the plaintiffs rejected the government’s suggestion of severing the disputed exemptions because such action would not curb the power of Congress or the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to promulgate future content-based exemptions.

The government responded to the plaintiffs’ arguments by asserting that the TCPA’s cell phone ban is a content-neutral “time, place, and manner regulation” concerned with restricting the method of calling cell phones, but not the content of those calls.  Alternatively, the government asserted that even if the TCPA was found to be a content-based restriction on speech, it would nonetheless survive strict scrutiny because it serves a compelling governmental interest in protecting consumer privacy, is narrowly tailored, and lacks a comparable alternative.  The government also argued that the court should not consider certain FCC orders providing exemptions to the TCPA’s cell phone ban because such orders do not call into question the constitutionality of the TCPA itself.  Finally, the government argued that should there be a finding that the government-debt exemption is unconstitutional, the court should sever that provision from the cell phone ban and leave the remainder of the TCPA intact.

Although we cannot predict how the court will decide the cross motions for summary judgment, it is significant that the court is set to rule on a broad challenge to the TCPA’s constitutionality.  K&L Gates LLP will continue to monitor the case and post developments as they occur.

Second Circuit Holds That Contractual Consent May Not Be Unilaterally Revoked Under The TCPA

By Joseph C. Wylie II and Molly K. McGinley

On June 22, 2017, the Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment for a defendant in a case of first impression, holding that under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 (“TCPA”), consent to be contacted by telephone cannot be unilaterally revoked by one party when that consent is provided as bargained-for-consideration in a bilateral contract.

In Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services, the plaintiff Alberto Reyes, Jr. (“Reyes”) leased a new Lincoln MKZ luxury sedan from a Ford dealership, defendant Lincoln Automotive Financial Services (“Lincoln”).  The lease agreement itself provided “express[] consent” by Reyes for Lincoln to contact him “by manual calling methods, prerecorded or artificial voice messages, text messages, emails and/or automatic telephone dialing systems…. regardless of whether you incur charges as a result.”  After the lease agreement was finalized, Reyes ceased making required payments under the agreement.  After Lincoln placed multiple calls (using both live and pre-recorded voice messages) to Reyes cellular phone, Reyes allegedly sent a letter to Lincoln revoking his consent to be contacted by Lincoln at that telephone number.

Reyes filed a complaint against Lincoln in the Eastern District of New York, alleging violations of the TCPA and seeking $720,000 in damages.  On June 20, 2016, the Eastern District of New York granted summary judgment to Lincoln, holding in part that “the TCPA does not permit a party to a legally binding contract to unilaterally revoke bargained-for consent by telephone.”

In affirming the district court’s ruling regarding revocation of consent, the Second Circuit acknowledged that the Third Circuit and Eleventh Circuit have previously ruled that a party can revoke consent under the TCPA–rulings that were the basis of the FCC’s 2015 Ruling that prior express consent is revocable under the TCPA (discussed here).  However, the Second Circuit held that the question presented by the Reyes appeal was different.  Unlike the plaintiffs in those cases who gave consent “gratuitously,” in the context of an application process, Reyes’s consent was included as an express provision of his lease agreement with Lincoln.

The Second Circuit rejected Reyes’s argument that under common law, the term “consent” is revocable at any time. While the Second Circuit agreed that the common law definition of “consent” applied to consent in the context of the TCPA, it held that “common law is clear that consent to another’s actions can ‘become irrevocable’ when it is provided in an legally binding agreement.”  In such circumstances, any modification to consent must receive the “’mutual assent’ of every contracting party in order to have legal effect.”  The Court reasoned “[i]t is black-letter law that one party may not alter a bilateral contract by revoking a term without consent of a counterparty.”

The Second Circuit further deemed “meritless” Reyes’s contention that his consent could be revoked because it was not an “essential term” of his lease.  Instead, the Court reasoned that terms of a contract are enforceable even if they are not “essential.”  “A party who has agreed to a particular term in a valid contract cannot later renege on that term or unilaterally declare it to no longer apply simply because the contract could have been formed without it.”

The Second Circuit also declined to accept Reyes’s argument that such an interpretation of consent under the TCPA would not further the statute’s remedial purpose of protecting consumers from unwanted telephone calls.  Finding “no lack of clarity in the TCPA’s use of the term ‘consent,’” the Court rejected application of the remedial rule of statutory interpretation.  In doing so, the Second Circuit recognized that businesses may insert consent clauses into standard sales contracts “thereby making revocation impossible in many instances,” but held that this “hypothetical concern” would be for Congress to resolve, not the Courts.

This ruling may provide a strong defense to revoked-consent claims brought against defendants by those in contractual relationships with those defendants.  It remains to be seen whether the reasoning set forth by the Second Circuit will be adopted by other courts.

Retransmission Consent Examined in Heated, Live Webcast Debate Among Broadcast, Cable, Programming, and Consumer Interests

A live webcast last week carried on Internet TV channel Broadband US TV examined all sides of the debate on whether rules governing the grant of retransmission consent by local broadcast stations to cable operators, DBS providers, and other multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), should be reformed.

Retransmission consent negotiations have become quite contentious in recent years, at times resulting in the temporary blackout of a local broadcast station in the face of an impasse between the MVPD and broadcaster.

The lively and, at times, raucous debate featured Toni Cook Bush of Skadden, Arps and John Hane of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman for broadcasters, Ross Lieberman of the American Cable Association and Cristina Pauze of Time Warner Cable for cable operators, Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge for consumer interests, and Richard Waysdorf, of Starz Entertainment for independent programmers. The program was moderated by Broadband US TV co-hosts Marty Stern of K&L Gates and Jim Baller of the Baller Herbst Law Group.

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Broadcaster, Cable, Programming, and Consumer interests to debate retransmission consent in live webcast, Thursday, April 7 at 1pm EDT

Broadband US TV will feature a live webcast debate on retransmission consent this Thursday, April 7 at 1pm EDT.

Register for free by clicking here.

Every season, viewers and sports fans seem to get caught in the middle of disputes between broadcasters and cable and DBS providers over the terms of carriage of broadcast stations and affiliated programming. This program will examine the real issues underlying retransmission consent disputes and the economics and politics driving these issues.

This is an especially important question now, because thousands of carriage agreements will be up for renewal this year, as the FCC continues to examine these issues in an ongoing rulemaking proceeding.
 

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Comcast/NBCU Joint Venture Telebriefing (3/29/11)

K&L Gates partner Marty Stern will be moderating a Law Seminars International telebriefing on the Comcast/NBCU joint venture Tuesday, March 29 at 3 p.m. ET.  Further information and registration details for the event are available by clicking here.  Also participating in the telebriefing will be Jordan Goldstein of Comcast Corporation, Parul Desai of the Consumers Union, and Ross Lieberman of the American Cable Association. The panel will cover the implications of the merger, including its likely impacts on industry, the conditions imposed by the Government, competitive concerns raised by the transaction, and the benefits offered by the parties. Click here for our recent blog post discussing our analysis of the FCC order approving the transaction, with conditions.

K&L Gates Global Government Solutions Report Includes Articles on Key TMT, Privacy and Patent Developments

K&L Gates recently published its Global Government Solutions 2011 Annual Outlook, which contains articles from around the firm on key governmental developments expected in 2011.

The Annual Outlook includes an article addressing developments affecting the Telecom, Media and Technology sector in 2011 by DC partners Marc Martin and Marty Stern, noting that the TMT sector enters 2011 with significant regulatory uncertainty and the FCC facing an uphill battle on many signature regulatory initiatives.

The article reviews the FCC’s net neutrality order and the challenges it faces in court and on Capitol Hill, discusses the recent FCC and Department of Justice approvals of the Comcast/NBCU transaction, and a number of additional issues getting significant focus in 2011. These include retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and cable/DBS providers and the FCC’s expected rulemaking proceeding on this issue, the Commission’s implementation of new communications accessibility requirements under the new 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and continued efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund and make it broadband-centric.

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Broadband in America: The Year in Review; What Lies Ahead

K&L Gates co-hosted a live webcast December 22, carried live on Internet TV channels Broadband US TV and National League of Cities TV.

You can access the free webcast by clicking here (free registration is required).

K&L Gates partner Marty Stern joined co-host Jim Baller, together with guests Cecilia Kang, Communications Industry Journalist, the Washington PostGigi Sohn, President, Public Knowledge,  Jeffrey Silva, Senior Policy Director, TMT, Medley Global Advisors, and  Scott Cleland, President, the Precursor Group, for a lively and provocative review of 2010, particularly of the day-old FCC net neutrality decision, and for some bold predictions for 2011.

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New Disability Access Requirements for Advanced Communications and Video

By Marty Stern (Washington, DC), Carol Lumpkin (Miami) and Stephanie N. Moot (Miami).

The President signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 on October 8, 2010 (the “ComVid Accessibility Act” or “Act”). The ComVid Accessibility Act expands various disability access requirements to VoIP phones, browser-enabled smart phones, text messaging, Internet-enabled video devices, on-line video of TV programming, TV navigation devices, and programming guides and menus, among other things.

Karen Peltz Strauss, who has the lead at the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) on implementing the ComVid Accessibility Act, appeared on a recent live program on Internet TV channel Broadband US TV and discussed the FCC’s “enormous mandate” to implement the new Act.  Click here for a clip of Ms. Peltz Strauss’ comments on the program.  (with permission from TV Worldwide).[1]  According to Ms. Peltz Strauss, “Every segment of the industry that has anything to do with broadband, television, including cable, satellite or broadcast, Internet-based television, as well as . . . Internet-based providers, traditionally regulated [telephone] companies, wireless companies” needs to be paying attention to the new Act.   “Virtually every segment that has anything to do with communications or video programming is covered.”

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