May is one of those off months in which there are not the kind of routine filings that pop up in most other months – no EEO Public File Reports, no quarterly issues programs lists or children’s television reports, no Biennial Ownership Reports for noncommercial stations (which will soon disappear anyway when noncommercial stations transition to the same biennial report deadline as commercial broadcasters – see our articles here and here). Clearly, the big event for TV will be the likely start of the bidding in the “reverse auction” part of the TV incentive auction. For radio, the big activity will be around the continuing window for AM stations to buy FM translators to move to their communities (see our article here). And, as we wrote in our Broadcasters Calendar here, there are also a number of lowest unit rate windows in the states in which the final Presidential primaries are being held.
There are not even that many comment dates in proceedings of importance to broadcasters. Perhaps the most important is the preliminary comments on the proposed ATSC 3.0 transmission standard for the next generation of television (see our articles here and here). These initial comments are due on May 26.
The FCC is also taking comments in a proceeding to evaluate the EAS system, looking at issues including both how national and local alerts are originated and sent through the EAS system, and how to improve its usefulness and security. Comments are due May 9. Finally, reply comments in the set top box proceeding, looking at whether the FCC should open the cable set top box system so that more devices than the traditional box can serve as the navigation system through MVPD programming are due at the end of the month. This has become a very controversial proceeding, with many in the content community concerned about the threats to copyright and security which might be the result of an open architecture, while some tech companies are looking at the content integration potential of an open box. These reply comments are due on May 23.
While upfront, this does not look like a busy month, with the incentive auction and continuing AM translator window, this month will no doubt keep many broadcasters very busy. Next month, we will be back to a number of routine filing deadlines, and will no doubt have other big issues on the table as well. So, as always, keep your eyes open for regulatory issues that can affect your operations.