December is one of those months when all commercial broadcasters have at least one FCC deadline, and there are also many other filing dates of which many broadcasters need to take note. For all commercial broadcasters, Biennial Ownership Reports are due on December 2. Hopefully, most broadcasters have already completed this filing obligation, as FCC electronic filing systems have been known to slow as a major deadline like this comes closer. See our article here for more on the Biennial Ownership filing requirement that applies to all commercial broadcast stations.
Noncommercial stations are not yet subject to the uniform Biennial Ownership Report deadline (though the FCC has proposed that happen in the future, see our article here, a proceeding in which a decision could come soon). But many noncommercial stations do have ownership report deadlines on December 1, as noncommercial reports continue to be due every two years, on even anniversaries of the filing of their license renewal applications. Noncommercial Television Stations in Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota have to file their Biennial Ownership Reports by that date. Noncommercial AM and FM Radio Stations in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont also have the same deadline for their Biennial Ownership Reports.
Also on December 1 is the obligation for EEO Public File Reports to be placed in the public files (paper for radio as well as on station websites, and online for TV) for Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Class A Television Stations and AM and FM Radio Stations in the following states: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont that are part of an Employment Unit with 5 or more full-time employees. In addition to the routine public file reports, Radio Station Employment Units with 11 or more full-time employees in Alabama and Georgia have to file with the FCC Mid-Term EEO Reports on FCC Form 397 due on December 1. See our article here on Mid Term EEO report obligations.
Also due by December 1 are Annual DTV Ancillary/Supplementary Services Report (FCC Form 317), which must be filed by all Commercial and Noncommercial Full-Power and Digital Class A Television Stations, Digital TV Translators, and Digital LPTV Stations. For details on this obligation, see our article here. Any fees due for stations that had some ancillary and supplementary revenue must also be paid.
In addition to these deadlines for routine FCC reports, there are several important rulemaking proceedings in which comments are due. In particular, by December 1, comments are due on the FCC’s proposal to review the requirements for “good faith negotiations” for retransmission consent agreements between TV broadcasters and cable and satellite television operators. The FCC recently denied an extension of that deadline (here) that had been requested by broadcasters (though the reply comments were pushed into January). For a summary of the issues that the FCC asked in that proceeding, see our summary of the proceeding here.
Whether to change the requirements for limits on Foreign Ownership of broadcast stations is also part of an FCC rulemaking proceeding. This proceeding could lead to more foreign investment in US broadcast properties. For more information about this proceeding, see our summary here.
In addition to these rulemaking proceedings, the Incentive auction marches on. The filing window for TV stations who want to participate in the “reverse auction” by selling their channels to the FCC, opens in December. Stations interested in proceeding need to file an FCC Form 177. The FCC will be hosting a webinar to explain the requirements for that filing on the first day of the filing window. For details of the filing obligation and the webinar, see our article here.
Finally, while not December dates per se, there are accessibility obligations for TV stations that bookend the month. TV stations should already be in compliance with obligations to convert textual alerts on emergency matters (e.g. weather crawls) which occur outside of news programs or EAS alerts dealing into speech, and broadcast that audio on the TV station’s SAP channel. That obligation took effect at the end of November. In addition, TV stations that take clips of programming that was captioned when broadcast on-air and retransmit that programming online need to caption those clips – effective January 1. See our summary of those obligations here.
So, between your holiday parties, shopping and celebrations, make sure to take into account your regulatory obligations, too. The FCC seemingly is not taking a vacation!