A new month in a new year, and a number of new regulatory dates are upon us for broadcasters – and important dates for webcasters also fall in this month.  So now that the holidays are quickly becoming just a foggy memory, it is time to sharply focus on those regulatory obligations that you have to avoid legal issues as the year moves forward.  January 10 brings one deadline for all broadcast stations – it is a date by which your Quarterly Issues Programs lists, setting out the most important issues that faced your community in the last quarter of 2013 and the programs that you broadcast to address those issues, need to be placed in the physical public inspection file of radio stations, and the online public file of TV broadcasters.

Full power TV and Class A TV stations by January 10 also need to have filed with the FCC their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Reports, addressing the educational and informational programming directed to children that they broadcast.  Also, by that same date, they need to upload to their online public files records showing compliance with the limits on commercials during programming directed to children.

For webcasters, by the end of this month, under many of the Webcaster Settlement Act agreements, elections need to be filed with SoundExchange determining which rate structure will be claimed by the webcaster in the coming year.  Particularly small webcasters, “pureplay” webcasters, and small broadcasters looking for certain special treatment under these agreements need to review their status to see if they can still claim coverage under these agreements.  The upfront minimum fees which, under most royalty rate structures is $500 per channel, also needs to be submitted to SoundExchange before the end of the month.  Note that under certain Webcasting Settlement Agreements higher minimum fees may be required, and in some instances (particularly for small noncommercial webcasters) additional fees for the waiver of paperwork obligations must also be submitted.  So carefully review your obligations under the agreements under which you are operating.  For summaries of the rates paid under some of the webcaster deals, with links to more detailed summaries of the agreements, see our article here

For radio and TV broadcasters in certain states, post-filing and pre-filing license renewal announcements must be broadcast.  They should have been run on the 1st of the month, and need to again be run on the 16th   – prefiling announcements for radio stations in New Jersey and New York, and TV stations in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma, and post-filing announcements for radio stations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and TV stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

There are important comment dates for broadcasters in several FCC proceedings, including two of which we have recently made note.  AM broadcasters should be looking to file comments on the FCC’s initial set of proposals for the improvement and revitalization of the AM service.  We summarized the issues raised in that proceeding here and here.  Comments are due on January 21.  For TV stations, the FCC has also asked for comments as to whether clips of TV programs that were captioned on the air should also be captioned when they are transmitted on the Internet. Right now, only full programs retransmitted on the Internet need to be captioned.  We summarized that proceeding here, and comments are due on January 27.

Finally, broadcasters should start thinking about their political broadcasting obligations.  The first lowest unit rate window kicks in on January 18 for broadcaster in Texas running advertising for candidates in the March 4 primary.  Watch for political windows to start to open in your state as the year rolls on.  More information about Lowest Unit Rates can be found in our article here.

Plenty for broadcasters to worry about in this first month of the year – and only 11 more to go after this one!