While the holidays may be upon us, there is no rest in the broadcast regulatory world. December 1 brings routine EEO public file report obligations for radio and television station employment units with 5 or more full-time employees for stations located in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont. Stations in those states need to upload their EEO Public Inspection file report to their online public file by December 1, reporting on their outreach efforts for employment openings at their stations in the prior year, as well as their non-vacancy specific outreach initiative (i.e. the FCC’s EEO “menu options” where broadcasters report on efforts they have taken to educate the public about broadcast employment opportunities and to train their employees to assume more important employment roles at their stations). See our post here for more on the EEO obligations.
TV stations with 5 or more employees located in any of the New England states have the additional obligation to file their FCC Mid-Term EEO Report – due on December 3 as the 1st is a Saturday. This report, filed on FCC Form 397, provides the FCC with the last two years’ Public File Reports, and a contact person at your stations to be contacted with EEO questions. While the FCC is considering elimination of these reports as most of the required information is already in a station’s online public file (where you should have all EEO public inspection file reports back to the date of the station’s last license renewal filing), the form is still required.
All full-power stations, commercial and noncommercial, should be preparing for January’s obligations – where each station will have to include in its online public inspection file their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists. These are due in each station’s public file by January 10. With the upcoming license renewals beginning on June 1, 2019, where the FCC is likely to review your file for the inclusion of these lists, they take on added significance – as they are the only required documents where you show how your programming responded to the public interest. See our article here. Also due by the 10th of January are FCC Form 398, Children’s Television Reports, to be filed by all TV stations to report on the educational and informational programming directed to children that they broadcast in the past year. Here, too, the FCC is looking at reform of its children’s programming requirements (see our post here). But, until such reform is adopted, these reports are still due quarterly.
For those TV stations that make revenue from non-broadcast “ancillary and supplementary services” (e.g. data transmission and similar non-broadcast services), FCC Form 2100-Schedule G reports on the revenue that they received from such services (and payment of the government’s assessment on that revenue) are due at the FCC by December 1. These reports had been due from all TV stations in the past, but as part of the FCC’s Modernization of Media Regulation initiative, the FCC limited the filing requirement solely to those stations with revenue to report. See our post here.
The FCC’s December 12 meeting will also include a number of issues of importance to broadcasters. These include the FCC’s adoption of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to start its next review of the ownership rules – looking principally at the local radio ownership limits, but also trying to define more precisely when any 2 of the Top 4 TV stations in a market can be combined, and whether the FCC should continue to prohibit the co-ownership of the Top 4 broadcast networks. The December 12 meeting is likely to also include a final decision on the FCC’s proposal to abolish the requirement that broadcast stations post their station authorizations at their control points. See our post here.
December 21 is also the date by which petitioners in the appeal of the FCC’s 2017 multiple ownership rule decision (relaxing the TV local ownership rules, eliminating the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership and radio/television cross-ownership rules, and making other changes – see our post here) and its adoption of an incubator program (see our post here) are due to be filed in Court. We’ll see the arguments of the parties opposing these rule changes. But the briefing schedule in the case runs through March, with oral arguments after that, so we’ll likely not see the decision in that case until late in 2019.
Of course, as in any month, these are but the highlights of the regulatory dates of importance to broadcasters. Stations should watch developments out of the FCC, and consult with their own advisors, to make sure that they know the regulatory obligations that apply to their own stations.