There was lots of news out of the FCC yesterday that will give us issues to write about for weeks to come. Here are some highlights. At its open meeting, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on potentially reforming the children’s television rules – including a review as to whether the current requirement that regularly scheduled programs of 30 minutes in length are the only means to meet the obligation to broadcast 3 hours of educational and informational children’s programming each week for each stream of free over-the-air programming broadcast by a station without facing heightened FCC scrutiny. The rulemaking will also look at whether all kid’s programming obligations could be met by broadcasts on a single multicast stream or through other efforts. The FCC Press Release on the action is here, and and the text of the notice is here.
On EAS, the FCC took actions to strengthen the reliability of the EAS system by allowing real EAS tones to be used in PSAs to promote the system, subject to certain safeguards, and to allow for testing of the EAS system using “live codes” with appropriate warnings and disclaimers. The order also requires the reporting of false emergency messages that may be sent out. The FCC Press Release on that item is here, and we will post a link to the full text when it is available.
On C Band, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to allow for more uses of the 3.7-4.2 GHz band, which is currently used for the reception of satellite-delivered broadcast programming and other services, while protecting existing users of the spectrum. The FCC also ordered the collection of additional information from current users of the band about their uses. The Public Notice of this action is available here, and the text of the notice will be posed when available.
The FCC also released the agenda for its August meeting, including two items of interest to broadcasters. One broadcast issue to be considered at the August meeting is the adoption of an order establishing rules for an incubator program by which existing radio operators can assist (financially or otherwise) minorities and other new entrants in broadcast ventures – and in exchange the established broadcaster will get a waiver to exceed the ownership limits in a comparably sized radio market. This incubator program will be reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in evaluating the FCC’s decision from last year relaxing certain ownership rules (including the local TV ownership rule and the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban). The Court has put the appeal on that decision on hold until the FCC adopts this incubator program (see our article here). The draft order on the incubator program is here.
Also, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking to adopt rules for the distribution of funds to cover the costs incurred by FM, LPTV and TV translator stations whose operations were disrupted by the repacking of the TV band as part of the broadcast incentive auction. Additional funds to help pay such costs were authorized by Congress earlier this year. The draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is here.
On other matters, FCC public notices released yesterday revealed that LPFM advocates have asked for reconsideration of the FCC’s denial of their request to halt the processing of new FM translator applications (see our article on the denial here). These advocates have claimed that new translators will preclude future LPFM opportunities, and thus should not be granted without specific showings as to what that impact will be. The reconsideration petition is here. Update: July 13, 2018, 2:30 PM – the FCC’s Audio Division has already dismissed the Petition for Reconsideration with respect to all but one application, finding that no standing to object to the other applications has been shown. The letter dismissing the pleading is available here.
Finally, the FCC denied reconsideration of its decision to renew the license of WWOR-TV, rejecting challenges to its renewal application, including arguments that the station had not adequately served the area of New Jersey to which it is licensed. We wrote about this case before, here. Yesterday’s decision is interesting in that it closely analyzed the public service and informational programming provided by the station in deciding that the discretion exercised by the licensee in determining that this programming met the needs of its community was reasonable. With license renewals beginning next year for radio stations in certain parts of the US, and for TV broadcasters soon thereafter, this decision makes for interesting and informative reading.
We hope to write in more detail about many of these issues in coming days – but there was obviously plenty going on at the FCC yesterday worthy of any broadcaster’s consideration.