FCC business marches on in this time of social distancing and mandatory lockdowns, though with modifications caused by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The FCC released a Public Notice yesterday announcing that its monthly open meeting scheduled for March 31 will be held by teleconference rather than live in the FCC meeting room. It can be viewed on the FCC’s website and on its YouTube channel. Most of the action items will have already been voted on by the Commissioners through the “circulation” process. This means that the votes will be taken on the written orders without any formal presentations by FCC staff members explaining the actions, and without orally-delivered statements by any of the Commissioners – though the Commissioners can certainly make their feelings known in written statements on the items on which they will have voted. The meeting itself is likely to consist of Commission announcements and statements by the Commissioners on the current state of affairs.
Issues that were to be considered at the meeting of interest to broadcasters include the adoption of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Distributed Transmission System technology for TV stations – making it easier for TV stations to fill in their market coverage with multiple transmitters spread throughout the market, rather than a single big transmitter in the center of the market – a technology made easier as stations transition to the new ATSC 3.0 transmission system (see the draft NPRM here). FCC Notices of Proposed Rulemaking on significantly viewed TV stations (draft NPRM here) and cable carriage disputes (draft Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here) are also on the agenda.
Speaking of Commission meetings, it appears that Commissioner O’Rielly will continue to be a fixture of these meetings in the future. Last week, it was announced that the President had nominated the Commissioner to serve another term on the FCC. Of course, that nomination needs to be approved by the Senate when they have a moment’s break from considering coronavirus relief packages. Commissioner O’Rielly has taken the lead on several broadcast initiatives, notably including crackdowns on pirate radio (see our articles here and here) and on the revision of the children’s television rules (see our articles here and here). Look for this familiar face to remain at the FCC for the foreseeable future.
Watch for more from the FCC on these matters in coming days as it continues to function in these trying times.