While summer has just about arrived, FCC regulatory dates do not depart to the beach and leave the world behind. Instead, there are a host of filing deadlines this month. EEO Public Inspection file reports must, by June 1, be placed in the public inspection files of stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees if the stations are located in the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. Radio stations in Michigan and Ohio that are part of employment units with 11 or more full-time employees need to also file an FCC Mid-Term EEO Report on FCC Form 397 (see our article on the Form 397 here). TV stations with 5 or more employees also need to file that report if they are located in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia or the District of Columbia.
There are regular dates, too, for noncommercial stations in certain states when licensees must file their Biennial Ownership Reports on FCC Form 323E. While these reports will eventually be filed on December 1 of odd-numbered years, at the same time as Biennial Ownership Reports of commercial stations, at this point the new rules have not yet gone into effect (see our articles here and here). Thus, by June 1, the licensees of noncommercial radio stations in Michigan and Ohio and noncommercial TV stations in Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia must file their Biennial Ownership Reports.
For TV stations, much attention will be on the Incentive Auction, where “clock rounds” (bidding that decreases each round to determine which stations will be bought out to meet the FCC’s goals) begins on May 31. Bidding in the initial phase of the reverse auction should end in June, then TV stations will need to sit back to wait to see if enough money is raised by the “forward auction,” where wireless companies will be looking to buy the spectrum that TV stations have surrendered. If not enough money is raised, another stage of the auction may need to be held where the FCC sells less spectrum, and stations that initially thought that they were going to be bought out need to bid lower until the FCC gets to the right balance of buyers and sellers. Remember, throughout the process, even if a station owner is told that their station is not needed (or if they determine that the price has gone too low for them to sell their spectrum), they still can’t talk about that decision until the entire auction is complete (see our article about the FCC’s quiet period here).
Radio stations, particularly those in Top 50 markets that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time employees, will need to start uploading their new political broadcasting documents into their online public file beginning on June 24. They will have 6 months to import all of the rest of their public file documents into the online public file – including documents like their Quarterly Issues Programs lists and EEO public inspection file reports dating back to the beginning of the current license renewal term. See our articles here and here for more information about these requirements. I will be doing a webinar for several state broadcast associations on this topic on Thursday, so if you are a member of one of the sponsoring organizations, tune in.
Also in June, comments are due in the FCC proceeding to review the EAS rules (an extension from the due dates last month given concerns that parties had not had time to adequately answer the FCC’s questions on the future of the EAS system). Those comments are now due on June 8.
Comments are due on June 20 on the FCC’s proposals for regulatory fees that will be due later this year – probably in September. I hope to write in more detail about the proposals for these fees soon, but because the FCC needs to raise funds to pay for a possible move of their DC headquarters office, the proposal is for substantially increased fees for broadcasters.
These are but some of the important dates for broadcasters that will arise this month. Consult our Regulatory Calendar for others. Watch the trade press and talk to your attorney about dates that may be important to your station’s operations.