Bill LeBeau

Partner
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Francis William LeBeau is a member of the firm's Media, Communications and Entertainment Practice Group.  Having served as in-house regulatory counsel to NBC Universal and Telemundo until Spring 2009, Mr. LeBeau specializes in federal regulatory issues relating to media content and distribution. Mr. LeBeau has in-depth experience in representing broadcast and cable television, radio and on-line programmers and distributors before the Federal Communications Commission in matters ranging from top-level policy advocacy, broadcast and cable ownership and transactions, programming and carriage negotiations, and regulatory compliance, including indecency, children's programming, equal employment, disability access, product integration, and gaming and political advertising. Mr. LeBeau also has advised clients in many other areas of federal regulation, including matters of copyright, program exclusivity and Satellite Home Viewer legislation, pharmaceutical advertising, privacy and other on-line and emerging wireless video content issues. As former in-house counsel, Mr. LeBeau has a unique understanding as to the practical issues these and similar matters present to companies seeking a reasonable approach to federal regulation. 

Mr. LeBeau is experienced in working with media companies and industry organizations on a full range of critical regulatory issues, including: 

Policy Advocacy. Mr. LeBeau has represented a broad range of companies in seeking to persuade the FCC to improve government regulation. From individual station channel allotments, including the successful redesignation of an Arizona noncommercial television station to a commercial station, to broad changes in children's programming, media ownership or carriage regulations, Mr. LeBeau has worked closely with regulators and other key players seeking to effect a more rational approach to media regulation. As one example, Mr. LeBeau recently played a leading role on behalf of media on the recent joint Congressional and FCC task force addressing childhood obesity. Mr. LeBeau also has prepared witnesses and drafted testimony for Congressional or agency hearings in matters as diverse as local news coverage to satellite viewer legislation to national television ownership. 

Regulatory Compliance. For several years, Mr. LeBeau oversaw federal regulatory compliance for all aspects of NBC Universal and Telemundo, including multiple English and Spanish language broadcast networks and stations, more than a dozen cable networks, and many new online sites. For these dozens of outlets, Mr. LeBeau supervised critical day-to-day regulatory issues, such as pharmaceutical advertising, gaming advertising, product integration and sponsorship identification, and political and children's programming, including the successful reversal of a forty-year-old agency precedent regarding political appearances on The Tonight Show. 

Mr. LeBeau also has developed extensive compliance plans and training regimes for these media outlets, which minimized the risk of equal employment, captioning, sponsorship ID and other violations, and has handled countless broadcast, cable, satellite and wireless applications, including renewal and technical applications. Educated as an engineer, Mr. LeBeau has a deep understanding of the technical and operational issues faced by many media outlets seeking to comply with federal regulation, including the transition to digital television. 

Media Transactions, Auctions, Negotiations and Investments. Mr. LeBeau has advised dozens of media clients in acquiring or selling television and radio stations, including the successful acquisition of Universal Studios by NBC in 2004, as well as other transactions involving significant regulatory issues, including ownership rule waivers and foreign ownership concerns. Mr. LeBeau has actively participated in auctions or has successfully settled mutually exclusive claims on behalf of a number of clients. Mr. LeBeau also has negotiated on behalf of broadcast and cable companies in many other contexts, including retransmission consent and carriage deals, affiliation relationships, territorial exclusivity issues, and news-sharing and other innovative arrangements. For multi-faceted investors interested in media companies but whose other investments may complicate media investments, Mr. LeBeau has developed flexible compliance strategies. 

Agency Litigation. Mr. LeBeau has responded to dozens of inquiries from federal agencies relating to the content or operations of broadcast, cable or Internet outlets. Mr. LeBeau works with his clients to develop a comprehensive strategy that potentially includes the outlet, the program provider, the regulator, and other stakeholders, in order to resolve such inquiries or complaints with minimum adverse impact on the client. 

Mr. LeBeau has been an active participant in a number of fora on media issues, including as moderator for a Fall 2008 MSTV conference on the digital television transition and mobile TV. He began his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable David B. Sentelle, Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. 

Memberships

  • Federal Communications Bar Association