April brings with it a milestone – as it is the end of the first quarter since all radio stations have had to have their online public inspection file “live” so that anyone, anywhere, can view a station’s compliance with rules that previously could only be judged by going to the station and reviewing the paper public file. April 10, in particular, is important, as it is when Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, summarizing the most important issues facing the community which the broadcaster serves and the programs that the broadcaster aired to address those issues, must be in the online public file for all full-power radio and TV stations. We wrote about the importance of these sometimes overlooked documents here, as these are the only FCC-mandated documents that reflect how a station has served the needs and interests of its community. We have also noted that, in the past license renewal cycle, missing Quarterly Issues Programs lists were the source of the most fines issued to broadcasters. Now that compliance can be judged at any time by the FCC, their importance is only magnified. So be sure that you get these documents into your online public file by April 10.
EEO Public Inspection File Reports, summarizing a station’s employment record for the prior year, are also to be uploaded to a station’s online public file. For radio and TV stations in Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, these reports need to be completed and included in the public file by April 1 by all stations that are part of employment units with 5 or more full-time (30 hours per week) employees. In addition, radio stations in employment units with 11 or more full-time employees in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and TV stations in Texas with 5 or more full-time employees, also need to file EEO Mid-Term Reports, commonly referred to as FCC Form 397 applications. While the FCC is considering the abolition of the Mid-Term Report (see our article here), the obligation is still in place so, for now, stations must comply.
TV stations also must file with the FCC, by April 10, their Children’s Television Reports, detailing the amount of educational and informational programming that they have broadcast on each of their subchannels. Here, again, there are proposals at the FCC for reform of this requirement (see our post here), but as no action has yet been taken, this report must still be filed. In addition, TV stations must include in their public file documentation showing that they complied with the advertising limits in children’s television programming.
April also brings various filing deadlines for various groups of stations. TV stations changing channels as a result of the incentive auction must file a Transition Progress Report by April 10. This is filed on FCC Form 2100 – Schedule 387 (see our article here).
Low Power TV stations and TV translators displaced by the repacking of TV stations following the incentive auction can file for “displacement channels” (channels that are in the new core TV band and not blocked by full-power stations) in a window that opens on April 10 and runs through May 15. See our article here about that window.
Radio stations involved in the recent translator filing windows have some important dates in April. April 18 through May 9 are the dates for the window for long-form applications by AM stations that filed applications for FM translators in the second FCC window that was open late last year for Class A and B AM stations to seek FM translators (see our article here). Applications that were not found to be singletons in that auction (in other words, those applications that did conflict with other applications filed during the window) should be looking for the announcement in the near term by the FCC of a filing window for amendments to applications to resolve their mutual exclusivity.
Responses to the FCC’s latest EEO audit are due by April 12. See our article here about that audit, which notes that responses are to be posted in a station’s online public file, not filed directly with the FCC.
A number of reply comments in pending FCC proceedings are due in April. Reply comments in the FCC proceeding to abolish the filing requirements for certain FCC contracts are due by April 2 (see our summary of the FCC proposals here). Reply Comments on the FCC’s inquiry into the national cap on TV ownership are due April 18 (see our summary here). And, finally, comments on the FCC’s proposals for an incubator program are due April 9 (see our summary here).
Another busy month in regulation for broadcasters seems to be in store. Always remember to check with your counsel for other dates that we may have missed here that are important to your station.