Time flies, and more regulatory requirements and comment deadlines in regulatory proceedings are upon us in the month of August. The regular regulatory deadlines include license renewal for TV and LPTV stations in California, and EEO Public Inspection File yearly reports for stations in California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Noncommercial TV stations in California and North and South Carolina all have ownership reports on Form 323E due on the August 1, and noncommercial radio stations in Wisconsin and Illinois have ownership report obligations too. We can also expect that the deadline for submission of Annual Regulatory Fees will be set this month but, as we have not yet heard about that date, the deadline for the fees to be paid may not be until sometime in September.
In addition to the regular filings, there are numerous proceedings in which various government agencies will be receiving comments in proceedings that could impact broadcasters. Next Wednesday, August 6, the FCC will be taking comments on it Quadrennial Review of the multiple ownership rules. The issues to be considered include the TV ownership rules (including the question of how to deal with Shared Services Agreements) about which we wrote yesterday. Also to be considered in the proceeding are questions about the radio ownership rules, and the cross-interest rules – including whether to change the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules. But the FCC is not the only one who will be receiving comments on issues that can affect broadcasters.
The Department of Justice is receiving comments through August 6 on whether to amend the antitrust consent decrees that govern the operations of ASCAP and BMI. Part of those decrees govern the way that the rates are set by these organizations for the public performance of musical compositions. The review of the consent decrees has been triggered by the interest of songwriters to get a bigger share of the royalty pie (see our articles on these issues here and here), which principally arose from a comparison with what performers and labels receive from digital services. While the impetus for these changes may have been the digital services, should the consent decrees be changed in any significant way, the rates set for radio and TV royalties could be affected as well.
For radio broadcasters, the Copyright Royalty Board will be accepting reply comments on its recordkeeping proceeding through August 11. This is the proceeding which is looking to revise procedures for reporting the music played by webcasters – including broadcasters who are streaming their signals on the Internet. We wrote about this proceeding here and here.
Petitions to Deny LPFM applications that were recently accepted by the FCC are also due this month – at least for many such applications. As we wrote here, the FCC accepted several hundred LPFM applications at one time, and all have a petition to deny deadline of August 8. But since that list came out, many LPFMs have been filing amendments to change channels to avoid mutually exclusive applications, so broadcasters need to watch these amendments too, as they have only 30 days from the release of the notice of the acceptance of the amendment to file petitions, raising interference issues or other questions about the qualifications of these applicants. See our article here.
Recently, the FCC also put a request for a rulemaking proceeding on public notice – seeking to establish a new class of FM stations – a C4 class that would have power limits midway between the 6 kw power limit for Class A stations and the 25 kw limits for Class C3 stations. From my discussions, FM broadcasters seem somewhat divided on this proposal, as some see the opportunity to upgrade their stations, while others are concerned about the proposal’s potential to impact translators and the ability of other stations to move their stations. This is not a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Instead, the FCC has is merely asking for initial comments on this proposal, basically inquiring as to whether or not they should even more forward with this idea. Those comments are due on August 18.
On top of all of these proceedings, there will no doubt be developments on the TV incentive auction, as the FCC has promised to begin this summer to provide broadcasters an idea of how much they will offer to TV stations to give up their spectrum (and the days of summer are getting shorter all the time). Comments on Pandora’s request for a declaratory ruling on the alien ownership rules are also due this month. And we may see the setting of dates for comments on the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the captioning of clips of online TV programming (see our article here), as well as the dates for any appeal of the incentive auction order.
When I first started practicing law, August was considered to be a slow season in Washington, as everyone went on vacation. While Congress may still follow that tradition and leave DC, it looks like the rest of us (and many of you) will still be plugging away to meet all of the regulatory deadlines that agencies have set for us this last month of summer.