The most important thing for the TV stations in Birmingham to know is that they can’t broadcast in Birmingham, even though they are owned by the city.
That is because they are not licensed to do so under the Birmingham City Council’s new “Local Authority Television” license.
This means they can not broadcast news, talk shows, sports, and anything else that is broadcast on local television.
“Birmingham has a history of broadcasting on local TV,” said Mike Brown, a spokesman for Birmingham City Hall.
“There are no plans to change that.”
The city’s council also said it would not allow any city-owned stations to broadcast in the city without first obtaining permission from the Alabama General Assembly.
However, the City Council could not say why Birmingham didn’t follow the same procedure for its local television stations.
Instead, the city’s current television licenses were approved by the Alabama State Board of Public Broadcasting.
If Birmingham were to allow any local stations to air news, sports or other programming in Birmingham without the permission of the city council, the local stations would be prohibited from broadcasting on the same frequency as their local stations.
However, Brown said the city did not want to risk the possibility of such a situation by allowing the local channels to broadcast on the frequency they do.
The local channels do have the right to broadcast local news on a local station’s frequency, Brown added.
But, he said, the Birmingham city council does not have the authority to regulate what local channels can and cannot do in the same way that the state does.
In other words, the council has no legal right to interfere with local television licenses.
Brown added that he is not aware of any plans to revoke the local licenses of the local television channels.
(Read more about Birmingham TV licenses here.)
The Birmingham City Commission also has not given up on the city-run television stations, even after the Alabama Legislature passed a law in April to do just that.
On April 25, the Alabama House passed House Bill 599, which, if passed by the Senate, would allow Birmingham City-owned local stations like ABC, WALB, and Birmingham Public Television to be licensed by the Birmingham State Commission on Local Government (BSLG).
The bill, which now has to be signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey, would establish the Birmingham Regional Telecommunications Authority, which would oversee the local broadcast licenses of local television and radio stations.
However, it also requires the Birmingham Municipal Communications Commission (BMCC) to pass a “provisional resolution” that would allow the Birmingham Broadcasting Commission to license local stations without any prior approval from the Birmingham Council.
BMCC would have to make that decision by March 31.
At that time, the two agencies would begin negotiating with the Birmingham Broadcasters Association, the television license holder in the Birmingham area, and the Birmingham News Media and Technology Association, a nonprofit group representing local news and entertainment stations.BBRT also would have the option to negotiate with the local radio stations, and then the stations would have a chance to have their local licenses renewed by the City Commission.
Once those negotiations are complete, the new local licenses would then be approved by BSLG, which will then issue the necessary licenses to the local station.
Currently, the three Birmingham-owned television stations are BTV, WBBM, and WBNS, which also is owned by Birmingham City.
Despite the council’s desire to stop local television from broadcasting, the bill does not require them to do that.
“If you are going to stop someone from doing what they are doing, you have to have the law,” Brown said.
“It would be a lot easier to pass something like that, but there’s nothing that’s going to happen in the future.”
(The Birmingham News, which is owned and operated by the BBRT, was previously owned by a non-profit group called the Alabama Media Consortium.
While the groups have no legal connection to the Birmingham TV stations, they have the ability to negotiate directly with the BSLGs.)