Notifications about cable carriage have now gone electronic – and contact people at stations and MVPDs for notices about carriage issues are now to be provided in the FCC-hosted online public inspection file and in the Cable Operations and Licensing System (COALS).  According to an FCC Public Notice released last week, in those databases there is now a Carriage Election Notification Point of Contact – a place in online public file where full power TV stations and DBS providers are required to upload both an email address and phone number for purposes of carriage-related inquiries.  Cable operators are required to upload the same information to COALS.   This contact information must be uploaded no later than July 31, 2020 and must be kept up-to-date thereafter.  In fact, when logging into the online public file system to upload information to the public file, TV licensees are now seeing a reminder to provide this information.  These contacts will be used in the must-carry and retransmission consent carriage election statements that must be uploaded by stations to their online public files by October 1 of this year for the 2021-2023 cycle.  Under an FCC Report and Order adopted last year, stations upload their elections to their public file every three years on the normal election cycle and specifically notify MVPDs of their must carry/retransmission consent election only if that election changed from the prior cycle (see our article here).

Thus far, the Commission has not created any online public file requirement for qualified low-power (certain rural LPTV stations that qualify for must-carry on local cable systems) and non-commercial educational translator stations. Instead, carriage-related inquiries will be directed to the “contact e-mail” address and phone number these stations should have already provided under the “facilities tab” in the Commission’s Licensing and Management System (LMS) database.  Last week, the FCC issued a Report and Order clarifying those obligations for qualified LPTV stations and non-commercial educational translators requiring that they provide current contact information in LMS by July 31, 2020, update that information when it changes, and use email to make their carriage elections by the October 1, 2020 election deadline date.

Be aware of these new requirements, upload the required information by the July 31 deadline, and use electronic notices for the elections due by October 1.