Here are some of the regulatory and legal actions of the last week—and some obligations for the week ahead—of significance to broadcasters, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.
- The comment cycle was set in the FCC’s annual regulatory fee proceeding. On or before June 12, the Commission wants to hear from interested parties about the fees that it proposes to impose on the companies that it regulates – including broadcasters. The FCC proposes to complete the implementation of its change to computing fees for television stations based on population served rather than on the market in which they operate, a move it began last year (see our Broadcast Law Blog article here on the FCC decision last year to initiate the change in the way TV fees are allocated). The FCC also asks for ideas about how the Commission can extend fee relief to stations suffering COVID-19-related financial hardship. Reply comments are due on or before June 29. (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking)
- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Chris Krebs, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, wrote to the nation’s governors asking them to, among other things, declare radio and TV broadcasters as essential to COVID-19 response efforts and to afford broadcasters all appropriate resources and access. (News Release)
- In a good reminder to broadcasters that transactions involving the sale or transfer of control of a broadcast station must be authorized in advance by the FCC, the Media Bureau entered into a consent decree with two companies that sold an FM station and FM translator without getting approval from the Commission. The parties mistakenly believed filing license renewal applications that reflected the assignment was sufficient approval. The consent decree includes an $8,000 penalty. (Consent Decree). See this article on past cases where the FCC has warned that even transactions among related companies that change the legal form of ownership of a broadcast station without changing the ultimate control need prior FCC approval.
- The Commission granted approval to Cumulus Media, Inc. to exceed the Commission’s twenty-five percent foreign ownership threshold. The Commission will allow Cumulus to have up to 100 percent aggregate foreign investment in the company, although additional approvals will be needed if any previously unnamed foreign entity acquires 5% or more of the company or if any foreign entity desires to acquire control. (Declaratory Ruling). This decision shows the process that the FCC must go through to approve foreign ownership above the 25% threshold and the analysis needed to issue such approvals. See our articles here and here about the evolving FCC policy in this area.
- Anyone looking to hand deliver documents to the FCC needs to learn a new address, and it is not, as you might expect, the address of the FCC’s future headquarters. Deliveries by hand must now be brought to 9050 Junction Drive, Annapolis Junction, MD 20701. The address change is to enhance security screening and is part of winding down operations at the current 12th Street headquarters. (Order)
Looking at the week ahead, here are some dates broadcasters need to be considering:
- On or before Monday, June 1, all radio and TV stations in Arizona, DC, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming that have five or more full-time employees in their station employment unit (i.e., commonly owned stations serving the same area that share at least one employee) must upload to their online public file, and post a link to that report on the homepage of their station’s website, an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) report documenting their hiring from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020. (EEO Rules and Policies)
- On or before Monday, June 1, full-power TV, Class A TV, TV translator, and LPTV stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia and full-power AM and FM stations and LPFM and FM translators in Michigan and Ohio must file their license renewal applications. On Monday, June 1 and again on Tuesday, June 16, stations filing renewals need to broadcast their post-filing announcements informing their audiences of the filing of the renewal application. (Broadcast Law Blog on Newly-Revised TV License Renewal Procedures) (FCC Radio License Renewal Information) (FCC TV License Renewal Information)
- The stations filing for license renewal by June 1 have an additional EEO requirement. Full-power radio stations in Michigan and Ohio and full-power TV, Class A TV, and LPTV stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia must file with the FCC a Form 396, the Broadcast EEO Program Report. As a reminder, the license renewal application cross-references the file number of the EEO report, so the EEO report must be filed first. Form 396 is completed in and submitted through the FCC’s Licensing and Management System.
- For other regulatory dates of importance to broadcasters coming up in the month of June, see our summary of those dates which we published last week.