July is an important month for regulatory filings – even though it is one of those months with no FCC submissions tied to any license renewal dates. Instead, quarterly obligations arise this month, the most important of which will have an impact in the ongoing license renewal cycle that began in June (see last month’s update on regulatory dates, here). Even though there are no renewal filing deadlines this month, radio stations in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and DC must continue their on-air post-filing announcements on the 1st and 16th of the month. On these same days, pre-filing announcements must be run by radio stations in North and South Carolina, who file their renewals by August 1. Stations in Florida and Puerto Rico, who file on October 1, should be prepared to start their pre-filing announcements on August 1. See our article here on pre-filing announcements.
Perhaps the most important date this month is July 10, when all full power AM, FM, Class A TV and full power TV stations must place their quarterly issues/programs lists in their online public inspection files. The issues/programs list should include details of important issues affecting a station’s community, and the station’s programming aired during April, May, and June that addressed those issues. The list should include the time, date, duration and title of each program, along with a brief description of each program and how that program relates to a relevant community issue. We have written many times about the importance of these lists and the fact that the FCC will likely be reviewing online public files for their existence and completeness during the license renewal cycle – and imposing fines on stations that do not have a complete set of these lists for the entire license renewal period (see, for instance, our articles here, here and here). So be sure to get these important documents – the only official documents that the FCC requires to show how a station has met its overall obligation to serve the public interest – into your online public file by July 10.
July 10 is also the deadline for TV stations to electronically file with the FCC their quarterly FCC Form 398 children’s programming reports using the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (LMS). A copy of the form, once filed, should be automatically uploaded by the FCC to the station’s online public inspection file, although station personnel should confirm this step was completed by the FCC as stations retain ultimate responsibility for the contents of their online public files. TV stations must also complete a certification of compliance with the FCC’s commercial limits during children’s programming aired in the Second Quarter, and that certification must be manually uploaded to the station’s online public file. TV stations also must complete a certification of compliance with the requirements concerning the display of website addresses during children’s programming. While the FCC is planning at its July 10 meeting to change these reporting requirements to yearly ones if it adopts the draft order reforming its children’s television rules (we wrote here about that draft order), these revisions will not be effective for many months, so stations should continue to observe this requirement.
Another July 10 deadline is that for TV stations that are being repacked who must submit an FCC Form 2100, Schedule 387 transition progress report. Quarterly reports are due the 10th of the month following the end of each calendar quarter, and additional reports are due closer to the station’s phase completion date and after completing the transition. Phase 5 stations do not need to file this quarter because they recently submitted their 10-week Schedule 387 filings.
An annual copyright deadline also falls in July. Before July 31, all television stations that were carried as a “distant signal” by a cable system during 2018 and that aired a program that they produced for which they own the copyright that was retransmitted by a cable system, should file a copyright royalty claim form in order to make a claim to share in the 2018 cable royalty distribution.
July 10 is also the date by which comments are to be filed with the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division on the possibility of changes to the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. These decrees, most fundamentally, require that these two performing rights organizations treat all similarly-situated users of copyrighted music in the same way (no special deals for certain favored users), and give users the right to bring a court action if they believe that the rates proposed for the use of music are not reasonable. Any fundamental change in these consent decrees could significantly affect the costs of the use of music by broadcasters and other audio companies – so this is a very important proceeding. See our article here for more information about the current review of these decrees.
All EAS participants need to file updated ETRS Form I by July 3 – updating the basic information for virtually all broadcast stations. This is in anticipation of the announced August 7 nationwide EAS test. See our article here for more information.
EEO audit responses from those radio stations covered by the last EEO audit are due July 29 (see our article here about that audit). The FCC also recently adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking looking for information about the effectiveness of its current EEO rules. While comments will not be due until 30 days after this Notice in published in the Federal Register, stations should be considering their comments in this proceeding.
Also coming in August will likely be the FCC decision on regulatory fees which will likely be paid in September. There are significant questions for broadcasters about those fees – as radio fees are proposed to increase substantially, and TV fees are proposed to move to a system where stations pay on predicted coverage, rather than DMA size. Watch for the FCC’s decision in this proceeding in August.
While we are in the heart of the summer – and everyone’s mind may be on vacation plans – don’t overlook these important regulatory dates coming up this month. As always, check with your own counsel or legal adviser to make sure that we have not omitted any important dates that apply to your station this month.