Here we are at the start of a new year, and right away we have numerous regulatory deadlines for broadcasters. By the 10th of the month, all broadcast stations need to have placed in their public inspection files (online for TV and for those radio stations that have already converted to the online public file, and paper for the remaining radio stations), their Quarterly Issues Programs lists, documenting the issues of importance to their communities and the programs broadcast in the last quarter addressing those issues. TV stations have quarterly Children’s Television Reports due to be filed at the FCC by the 10th, addressing the programming that they broadcast to meet the educational and informational needs of children. Commercial TV stations should also add to their public file documentation to demonstrate their compliance with the commercial limits in programming addressed to children.
For TV stations, on the 1st of the year, new obligations became effective for online captioning. “Montages” of clips from TV programs, where all of those clips were captioned when broadcast, also need to be captioned when made available online. By July 1, clips of live and near-live programming must be captioned; however, they may be posted online initially without captions as long as captions are added to clips of live programming within 12 hours and to clips of near-live programming within eight hours after the conclusion of the TV showing of the full-length programming. For more on this requirement, see our article here.
There are several comment dates in FCC proceedings that will be of interest to broadcasters. Petitions for reconsideration of the FCC’s elimination of the UHF discount are due on January 10, with replies due on January 23 (see our article here). Similarly, comments on petitions for reconsideration of the broader multiple ownership proceeding, addressing issues including the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership rules, the local TV ownership limits and the attribution of JSAs, and the treatment of radio station ownership in embedded markets, are due on January 17, with replies probably doe on January 27 (although the Federal Register publication last week said January 24, we are anticipating a correction, see our article here).
Another proceeding of interest to broadcasters is the public notice of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, looking to recognize that online recruiting meets the requirements for wide dissemination under the FCC’s EEO rules for broadcasters. We wrote about that petition here and comments are due on January 30.
As we wrote here, the Copyright Office is also seeking comments on the experience and qualifications needed for a new Register of Copyrights, and what the priorities should be for the person selected for that position. Given the likelihood of important copyright issues coming up this year that may affect broadcasters, the January 31 deadline for comments on that notice should be of significance. Similarly, in the Copyright area, as we wrote here, Congress is also taking comments on a proposal to restructure the Copyright Office. Comments are due January 31.
For broadcasters who are streaming their signals, January 30 also brings a requirement for the payment to SoundExchange of minimum fees for the coming year for their streams. Webcasters pay a minimum fee of $500 per channel, up to $50,000, for their streaming. These minimum fees are applied to meeting the per performance rates that most commercial webcasters pay.
Also on the music royalty front, for commercial radio broadcasters who are playing songs written by songwriters affiliated with the new performing rights organization Global Music Rights (GMR), they have until January 31 to decide if they want to opt into the interim licensing deal agreed to by GMR and the Radio Music License Committee (RMLC). See our post here for more information.
Together with news as to who the new acting Chairman of the FCC, ongoing activity in the incentive auction, and the normal regulatory activity that goes on in Washington (which may well be heightened during this year of change in DC), there is plenty to keep the broadcaster busy this month. So watch your regulatory obligations carefully this month in this and every other month.