In looking at today’s deregulatory FCC, one might think that the Commission would look to the intent of a rule, rather than focusing on the details of the language implementing that rule. But in the case of a San Francisco TV station asking to be carried on DISH’s satellite television system pursuant to the rule that requires a satellite broadcaster who carries one local TV station to, upon request, carry all stations in the market (the “carry one, carry all” rule), those details became very important to the FCC. In a decision released earlier this week, the FCC’s Media Bureau denied the carriage request as the rules state that such requests have to be sent by certified US mail, return receipt requested. The station’s request was instead sent by Priority Express Mail. While there seemed to be no question of whether the carriage request was received by the October 1 deadline for the service of such requests, the decision looked to the language of the rule which states: “an election request made by a television station must be in writing and sent to the satellite carrier’s principal place of business, by certified mail, return receipt requested.” Because the process outlined in the rules was not followed, the decision rejects the carriage request.
What is the lesson of this case? Read the FCC’s rules very carefully and follow the procedures that are set out in those rules. Any adverse party who is looking for a way to deny your request can exploit any deviation from the language of the rules to try to deny you what you want. In this case, the FCC decision even noted that the FCC is thinking of changing the delivery method for most MVPD notices (see our article here), but until the rule is changed, the rule specified a process, and where that process was not followed, the relief the station sought was denied.